No. 19 Notre Dame men fall short at No. 8 Louisville

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Looking to close Atlantic Coast Conference play on the first weekend of March the same way it opened on the last weekend of December, No. 19 Notre Dame was coming.

Quickly.

Confidently.

Having been dropped into an eight-point deficit with four minutes and change remaining by No. 8 Louisville, Notre Dame climbed back to within two with 45.6 seconds left in a frenzied KFC Yum! Center.

Time to make the plays needed to win another one.

Only this time, it was the other guys who delivered to snap Notre Dame’s six-game ACC win streak with a 71-64 victory.

Losers in their mustard-gold jerseys and leaving an arena on the wrong end of the scoreboard for the first time in 27 days, Notre Dame finished the regular season 23-8, 12-6 in the ACC. The Irish were 5-4 on the road in league play, 2-7 against ranked teams.

Notre Dame tied with Florida State and Louisville for second place in the ACC. All three finished 12-6. Based on tiebreakers, the Irish will be the No. 3 seed this week at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It's the same seed as when they won the 2015 ACC tournament. Notre Dame opens tournament play at approximately 9:30 p.m. Thursday in a quarterfinal matchup against the winner of No. 11 Georgia Tech/No. 14 Pittsburgh and No. 6 Virginia.

If there was any question what March basketball might be like, this one answered it. It was high energy. High intensity. Big plays from both teams. Big runs. Big lead swings. Big crowd. This one had it all at the end of an 18-game league schedule.

“This had an NCAA tournament feel to it,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “What a great college game.”

With a win and a North Carolina loss, Notre Dame would have tied for first place.

“That’s something we wanted to do and we had opportunities,” said junior power forward Bonzie Colson, who had 20 points and five rebounds. “It’s a tough one. But we’ve got to move on and our focus is how to get better.”

Turning the page may come a bit quicker and easier. The Irish may already be better heading into postseason thanks to another solid effort from junior power forward Martinas Geben. For the second straight game, Geben, a one-time starter, came off the bench and delivered big minutes.

Brey waited less than 90 seconds at the start of the second half before bringing in Geben and playing two bigs for long minutes for the first time in seven games. The Irish also rode a 2-3 zone to offset some serious Louisville size.

Geben finished with four points, four rebounds and a steal in 16 minutes.

“I’m so pleased with Martin Geben right now,” said Brey. “In this atmosphere against that front line, to do what he did, he’s playing better now than he did when he started.

“It comes at the right time.”

Geben’s flush of a lob dunk off a Matt Farrell feed brought the Irish within four with 1:29 remaining. And when Farrell drove it hard down the lane and finished, the Irish were within two.

That mustered memories of earlier ACC games when Notre Dame made the winning plays down the stretch. Against Pittsburgh. Clemson. Louisville the first time around back in South Bend. Against Virginia Tech.

League road win No. 6 was there for the taking. But Louisville wing Deng Adel decided to take it.

Coming back out of a timeout, Adel worked free on the wing, took a Quentin Snider pass and stuck a 3-pointer over the out-stretched arm of defender Steve Vasturia. That gave the Cardinals a five-point lead with 35.9 seconds remaining and extinguished any hopes the Irish had of getting this one.

“He hit a big one,” Colson said of Adel, “That hurt us. They hit big shots. That’s what it came down to.”

Wanting someone to make a jumper instead of getting crushed by a tip dunk, Brey went zone instead of man for that possession. Adel then made the visitors pay.

“He hit it,” Brey said. “You take your hat off to him.”

Louisville finished 9-for-20 on 3s to Notre Dame's 7-for-25.

Snider added 17 points and six assists. Donovan Mitchell had 20 points and five rebounds.

“Quentin Snider and Donovan Mitchell, with the game on the line, came up big for us,” said Cardinals coach Rick Pitino.

Louisville finished 24-7, 12-6 in the ACC.

Hours after the city’s downtown streets held a well-attended 5k race — think Sunburst — the Irish finished their ACC race. It’s one that started just as it ended — on the road, on a Saturday with a 2 p.m. tip. The first one was on New Year’s Eve in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, an overtime thriller that saw Vasturia stick the decisive 3-pointer in the closing seconds of a one-point win over the Panthers.

The 18-game league run saw Notre Dame become the first team in the 64-year history of the ACC to have two stretches of at least five wins and one four-game losing streak. Nobody else — not Duke, not North Carolina, not Virginia — had done that.

The Irish led by as many as six and trailed by as many as six in a first half when they struggled to make a shot. Notre Dame shot 39.3 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from 3, but not all of that was the feared Louisville pressure/changing defenses. The Irish got good looks and not enough of them fell.

Notre Dame was picked in preseason to finish seventh in the 15-team ACC. One poll even had the Irish as low as 11th. The Irish surpassed expectations a third straight league season.

“It’s great,” said senior captain V.J. Beachem, who scored 12 of his 17 in the second half. “To put ourselves in a great opportunity to play for a league championship's great, but it’s over now.”

Next up is the ACC tournament, which moves this season — and next — to Barclays Center in the New York borough of Brooklyn. It’s a building the Irish know well. They’ve won four in a row in the place. Notre Dame beat Michigan and Stephen F. Austin in the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament there last March and then beat Colorado and Northwestern on consecutive nights early in Thanksgiving week to win the 2016 Legends Classic.

The good stuff, though, is just beginning.

“It’s a new season now,” Colson said. “We’re still confident. Everybody’s moving on from this.”

NOTRE DAME (23-8): Bonzie Colson 6-12 6-7 20, V.J. Beachem 7-14 0-1 17, Matt Farrell 4-11 1-2 11, Rex Pflueger 0-3 0-0 0, Steve Vasturia 3-10 2-2 8, Martinas Geben 2-2 0-0 4, Austin Torres 0-0 0-0 0, Matt Ryan 0-1 0-0 0, T.J. Gibbs 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 24-58 9-12 64.

LOUISVILLE (24-7): Ray Spalding 1-3 2-2 4, Deng Adel 2-8 0-0 6, Anas Mahmoud 1-4 0-0 2, Quentin Snider 6-8 1-2 17, Donovan Mitchell 5-15 7-8 20, V.J. King 0-0 0-0 0, Jaylen Johnson 1-4 2-2 4, Mangok Mathiang 8-17 2-2 18, David Levitch 0-0 0-0 0, Tony Hicks 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-59 14-16 71.

Halftime-Louisville 30-27. 3-Point Goals-Notre Dame 7-25 (Beachem 3-8, Colson 2-3, Farrell 2-6, Gibbs 0-1, Ryan 0-1, Pflueger 0-2, Vasturia 0-4), Louisville 9-20 (Snider 4-5, Mitchell 3-8, Adel 2-6, Johnson 0-1). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Notre Dame 27 (Beachem 8), Louisville 42 (Mathiang 11). Assists-Notre Dame 14 (Farrell 8), Louisville 11 (Snider 6). Total Fouls-Notre Dame 13, Louisville 14.

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

@tnoieNDI

Notre Dame's Matt Farrell (5) drives around the defense of Louisville's Quentin Snider (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Mar. 4, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

The Atlantic Coast Conference will announce its all-league teams on Sunday afternoon, and several Notre Dame players are up for honors.

Here is how Notre Dame Insider Tom Noie’s ACC honors ballot looked when submitted Saturday night to the league:

First Team All-ACC

John Collins, PF, Wake Forest

Bonzie Colson, PF, Notre Dame

Justin Jackson, F, North Carolina

Luke Kennard, G, Duke

Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville

Second Team

Dwayne Bacon, G, Florida State

Joel Berry, G, North Carolina

London Perrantes, G, Virginia

Steve Vasturia, G, Notre Dame

Michael Young, G, Pittsburgh

Third Team

V.J. Beachem, G, Notre Dame

Matt Farrell, G, Notre Dame

Ben Lammers, C, Georgia Tech

Andrew White III, G, Syracuse

Jerome Robinson, G, Boston College

All-Freshmen Team

Bruce Brown, G, Miami (Fla.)

Jonathan Isaac, F, Florida State

Josh Okogie, G, Georgia Tech

Dennis Smith Jr., G, North Carolina State

Jayson Tatum, F, Duke

All-Defensive Team

Ben Lammers, C, Georgia Tech

Donovan Mitchell, G, Louisville

Xavier Rathan-Mayes, G, Florida State

Steve Vasturia, G, Notre Dame

Isaiah Wilkins, F, Virginia

Player of the Year: Bonzie Colson, F, Notre Dame

Freshman of the Year: Jayson Tatum, F, Duke

Coach of the Year: Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech

Defensive Player of the Year: Ben Lammers, C, Georgia Tech

Most Improved Player of the Year: John Collins, F, Wake Forest

Sixth Man of the Year: Tadric Jackson, G, Georgia Tech