Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Cardinals and Irish collide in a 1 vs 2 matchup

Photo Credit: Adam Lacy- Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

The second No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup of the season will take place in Purcell Pavilion on Thursday night between No. 1 Notre Dame (14-1, 2-0 ACC) and No. 2 Louisville (14-0, 2-0 ACC).

Notre Dame climbed to the top spot in the country after UConn lost to Baylor last week. Earlier in the season, UConn knocked off Notre Dame in South Bend 89-71 in another matchup involving the then-top two teams in the nation.

Since their loss to the Huskies, the Fighting Irish have rattled off seven straight victories, with the closest contest being a 16-point victory over Toledo. Notre Dame has dominated its first two ACC opponents with a combined margin of victory of 77 points.

Louisville remains undefeated at 14-0 and have faced North Carolina and Duke in its first two Atlantic Coast Conference games and came away with fairly easy victories.

Notre Dame is led offensively by Arike Ogunbowale, who is currently averaging 22.7 points per game on the season. Jessica Shepard has averaged nearly a double-double through 13 games of the season— 15.1 PPG and 9.7 rebounds per game. Jackie Young, Marina Mabrey, and Brianna Turner round out the starting five for the Irish and create a starting lineup that is a force to be reckoned with.

Asia Durr leads the Cardinals in scoring with nearly 21 points per game. Durr also leads Louisville in the steals category, making her a dangerous two-way player. Sam Fuehring has hauled in 88 rebounds this season to go along with averaging 10.7 points per game. Off the bench, Kylee Shook has grabbed 80 rebounds (second on Louisville) and leads the team with 18 blocks— all while averaging just 18 minutes per game.

As a team, Notre Dame is outscoring their opponents by an average of 25.9 points per game. Louisville has also been blowing out opponents all season long with a 20.8 margin of victory.

Louisville shoots and connects on over seven three-point field goals per game, making them a threat to spread the floor. Both teams shoot at least 49 percent from the floor so a fairly high scoring game could be a reality.

Notre Dame’s Muffett McGraw picked up her 900th career win on Dec. 30 with Notre Dame’s victory over Lehigh. With a win over Louisville on Thursday, McGraw would tie Jim Foster at seventh place on the all-time winningest coaches in women’s college basketball with 903.

Projected Starters:

Notre Dame: Ogunbowale, Shepard, Mabrey, Young, Turner

Louisville: Fuerhing, Jones, Durr, Dunham, Carter