NEW YORK – Notre Dame will play again next week in the NCAA tournament. Perhaps the sting of its 64-50 loss Friday against Louisville in the Big East tournament semifinals will serve as motivation for a better run.
‘‘I like the fact that they’re stinging right now,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. ‘‘Leaving here with a bad taste can make us hungrier for the NCAA tournament.”
The No. 23 Irish (22-11) were eliminated for a second straight year by Louisville (25-9), which powered its way to the championship game Saturday with a dominant first half.
‘‘We were playing good defense, but we were giving up second shots [early],” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. ‘‘We put in the two mosquitoes [guards Peyton Siva and Russ Smith], and they really get under your skin, and it was a big lift defensively.”
Siva (13 points, nine assists), Smith (five assists, three steals) and sophomore center Gorgui Dieng (16 points, six rebounds) sparked a turnaround after almost eight minutes had elapsed with the Irish in control 15-9. Louisville came out of a timeout with Dieng scoring the first of his five baskets in the first half. The Cardinals stole the inbounds pass and converted another bucket, then did it again.
The Irish made four free throws the rest of the half and trailed 35-19 at intermission.
‘‘We turned it over a couple of times, and we never really recovered,” Brey said. ‘‘They defended the heck out of us. We called a timeout and then we had a couple of open threes, and you have to make some of those to make you feel good about yourself again.
‘‘It was exactly what happened at Louisville [on Jan. 7, when the Irish won a double-overtime game], but they went back to more zone, and that had us a little frenzied at times.”
Glenview native Jack Cooley had 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Irish, and Eric Atkins scored 12 points.
‘‘We had that one stretch that was really hard to overcome,” Cooley said. ‘‘It was a big disappointment, but we have to move on to the next tournament. That’s the biggest one.”
Louisville, the No. 7 seed, advances for a second straight year to the championship game to face No. 4 seed Cincinnati, the upset victor over top-seeded Syracuse in the first semifinal game. It will be the first Big East championship without an original conference member. Louisville and Cincinnati came over from Conference USA.
‘‘We’re disappointed we didn’t make it to [the championship], but give [Louisville] credit,” Atkins said. ‘‘Now we have to set new goals in the NCAA tournament and move on from here.”
The Irish will await the NCAA bid announcements Sunday with Brey at least feeling better about Cooley’s play, a key for the Irish.
‘‘We need Jack’s presence, and him playing well tonight and in a rhythm, I feel good about that going into a [tournament] game Thursday or Friday,” he said.
Cincinnati 71, Syracuse 68
Sean Kilpatrick keyed Cincinnati’s early three-point barrage and scored 18 points as the Bearcats stunned the Orange (31-2) to end its 11-game winning streak. They did it with an incredible shooting performance over the opening 14 minutes, when they took a 17-point lead, and then by holding on as Syracuse was able to get within one point in the final seconds.
This was Cincinnati’s seventh win over a ranked team this season, the most in the country.
Dion Waiters had 28 points for Syracuse.