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    Irish Fall in BIG EAST Semifinals

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    It started out as a promising evening. Notre Dame and Louisville traded buckets for the first five minutes, and it looked like the start of another classic between the BIG EAST foes.

    Then the Irish used a 7-0 run to take an early 15-9 lead.

    Unfortunately, however that was the last bright spot of the night and it occurred less than eight minutes into the game.

    The Cardinals responded with a 10-0 spurt, and held the Irish without a field goal for the remainder of the half to build a 16-point lead at the break.

    In the second half, Notre Dame never managed to get closer than 12, on the way to a 64-50 loss in the BIG EAST tournament semifinals.

    For the third straight year, the Irish fall short of Saturday night in the Garden, and for the second consecutive season, it's at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals.

    The mystery remains. What is it about the Garden that causes the Irish to struggle so much offensively?

    Last night, Notre Dame made just four field goals in the second half, but still found a way to pull out a 57-53 overtime victory against South Florida.

    Tonight was a different story. The Irish struggled to put the ball in the basket, but also could not stop the Cardinals from scoring. Every time there was a glimmer of hope that Notre Dame might sneak back into the game, Louisville seemed to respond with a bucket, several of those scored by Gorgui Dieng who finished with 16 points on 8-for-8 from the field.

    Notre Dame will head back to South Bend and await Selection Sunday, where they will find out the seeding and location of their sure-thing at-large trip (though truthfully, an at-large bid is not guaranteed) to the NCAA tournament.

    In the fall, Coach Brey's BIG EAST colleagues predicted the Irish would finish ninth in the conference. On Black Friday, they lost co-captain and last season's second-leading scorer Tim Abromaitis to a season-ending knee injury.

    Looking at the season as a whole, Notre Dame fans have to be happy with 22 wins and a 13-5 third-place conference finish.

    Still, there is some disappointment. After finding a way to win last night, this felt like a team of destiny. It seemed this would be the year that Notre Dame finally got over that hump and played for a BIG EAST championship.

    Instead, that dream must wait. The BIG EAST landscape is changing, and who knows what this tournament might look like next season.

    Now, the Irish look to regroup for a possible NCAA tournament run, and if the majority of the season is any indication, we have not seen the last of the fight in this year's Fighting Irish.

    - Josh Flynt ('11)

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