After playing 13 of its first 15 games at home or at a neutral location, No. 13 Louisville will begin its first extended road trip when it visits Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon in South Bend, Ind.
Louisville (12-3, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) will stay on the road to face Pittsburgh and No. 2 Duke before returning home Jan. 22 against Georgia Tech. It could be a pivotal stretch for the Cardinals, who have slid in the rankings after losing two of their last three contests.
“Any team, any night, has a chance to win,” Louisville junior forward Jordan Nwora said to reporters as he and his teammates prepared for the road trip. “There’s a reason everybody’s playing at this level — any night somebody can win, and the ACC’s one of the best, if not the best, conference in the country.”
Meanwhile, Notre Dame (10-5, 1-3) could be desperate for a victory after blowing a 12-point lead against the North Carolina State Wolfpack and losing 73-68 in their most recent outing Wednesday. The Fighting Irish already have lost back-to-back games once this season and do not want to drop further in the ACC standings.
“Their physicality hurt us in the second half,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey told reporters after the road loss to the Wolfpack. “I thought we played well enough to escape.”
For the Fighting Irish to regroup, John Mooney could have to lead the way. The forward is averaging a team-best 15.8 points and 13.6 rebounds this season, which has included 12 double-double outings.
Meanwhile, Brey said guard Rex Pflueger is expected to play against Louisville after sitting out the previous game because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. Sophomore Dane Goodwin made his first start of the season against North Carolina State with Pflueger sidelined.
Regardless of who plays for the Fighting Irish, Louisville coach Chris Mack wants to see his players focus on defense. He saw room for improvement in a 16-point win over Miami on Tuesday, which snapped a two-game skid.
“As I told our team, we’ve got to figure out why we’re good, or what makes us good,” Mack said to reporters. “I thought we lost that at the end of the first half. Once we did that, I think Miami felt like, ‘Hey, we’re right there.’ They came out and played with a lot more confidence in the second half.”
Nwora leads Louisville in scoring with 20.9 points per game on 48.7 percent shooting. Steven Enoch is the only other player averaging in double digits with 11.5 points per game, while Dwayne Sutton and Ryan McMahon round out the top four scorers with averages of 8.9 and 8.7 points, respectively.
This is the 40th all-time meeting between the programs. Louisville holds a 24-15 series edge, including a pair of wins last season. The Cardinals won 75-61 in regular-season action, and they won again 75-53 during the second round of the ACC tournament.
This is the only meeting of the regular season between Louisville and Notre Dame.
–Field Level Media