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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, January 10, 2019 8:10 pm

Halftime: No. 2 Louisville 35, No. 1 Notre Dame 33

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND – In a sea of lime green-clad fans, No. 1 Notre Dame came to play tonight. So did No. 2 Louisville. If there was any doubt that these are two of the best teams in the country, it can be laid to rest after the first half.

The teams are evenly-matched and played a back-and-forth half that featured several wild momentum swings. As we hit halftime, there have been 12 ties and seven lead changes. 

The Cardinals have mostly been able to slow down Irish star Arike Ogunbowale, who didn't score her first points until there were 39 seconds left in the first quarter and didn't hit a shot from the field until 3:37 remained in the half. She has four points (on 1 of 6 from the field) at the half, which the Cardinals can count as a victory. Unfortunately for Louisville, the Irish are so deep and talented that it's impossible to focus attention on just Ogunbowale. The senior guard has been content to create for her teammates and she's dished two assists, both to Jackie Young in transition for layups. 

Transition has been where the Irish have made a lot of noise. They're trying to push the ball up the court off of every Louisville miss and Ogunbowale has used her exception vision in the open court to make plays without scoring. The Irish have a 11-4 lead in fast break points.

Sometimes, however, Notre Dame has gone too fast. In fact, that's happened often. The Irish have turned the ball over 11 times to Louisville's two and the Cardinals have a 15-2 lead in points off turnovers. Most of the giveaways have been ill-advised passes or offensive fouls, so we could see a different dynamic in the second half.

Louisville is in the game because of one player: Asia Durr. The 5-foot-10 guard has been a star in the first half, scoring 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Early in the second quarter, she got a steal and went the other way for a layup that put the Cardinals up six at 27-21 and forced Notre Dame to burn a timeout. The Cardinals' offense flows through her and she clearly has a green light whenever she wants to shoot. Notre Dame is the more athletic team overall, but the Irish have had a hard time controlling Durr. 

This game is there for either team to take and the first few minutes of the second half will be key. Louisville has been the more crisp team so far and will have a chance to put significant distance between itself and the Irish if it comes out strong in the third quarter. Notre Dame will surely clean up some of its sloppy play thus far and be ready to mount a comeback. Here we go.