--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Jared Anderson
For the second time of the week, No. 1 takes on No. 2. Forget Clemson and Alabama, this is a far better game.
The No. 2 Louisville Cardinals take on No. 1 Notre Dame Thursday, searching for a huge ACC victory. Louisville enters the game tied for the highest ranking in program history. A win against the Irish would most likely secure the first No. 1 ranking in program history.
Historically, Louisville has not performed well in South Bend. The Cardinals are 6-14 all-time against Notre Dame, and have lost four consecutive games against the Irish on the road- their last win came on January 11th, 2009.
Louisville defeated Muffet McGraw and Co. twice last year- 100-67 at the Yum! Center last season, and 74-72 in the ACC Championship final. If a foul was called on Mississippi State late in the Final Four, Louisville would have had a chance to beat Notre Dame for a third time.
About the Irish
Notre Dame is not perfect- they lost one game, against Connecticut on December 2nd. The Irish won only one quarter in the game.
The Irish lead the ACC in scoring offense. They score 90 points per game. Five women are averaging in the double-digits scoring, all of their starters. Arike Ogunbowale leads the team with 22.7 points, and hits 50.2 percent of attempts.
Notre Dame is hitting 52.4 percent from the field, and 34.5 from beyond the arc.
The Irish have won four of five games against ranked opponents- the best against No. 10 Oregon State on November 24th.
What to expect
Louisville defeated Notre Dame twice last year, once in a neutral location. The Cardinals have a higher three-point and free-throw percentage, but trail the Irish in field goal percentage, rebounding, assists, and some other metrics.
The Cardinals are arguably deeper than Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s starting five make up the bulk of their offense- the next scores less than five points a game. Louisville, comparatively, has six that score more than seven.
Louisville has a few players that can come off the bench and provide a spark- Kylee Shook can score from up close and sneak in the occasional three. Bionca Dunham had multiple games with more than 10 points, and had shown a rebounding ability.
If Louisville can go on a few runs, and keep the rest of the game close, then they may win their first game in nearly a decade in South Bend.
The game is at 7pm, and will be on ESPN.