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ND loses 8 conference games by a total of 26 points

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- In the end, the option play didn't really
have an option.

Trailing Notre Dame by three with 12 seconds left on Saturday at
Freedom Hall, Louisville coach Rick Pitino called a play that would
get forward Juan Palacios open for a 3-pointer.

Guard Taquan Dean had other ideas.

"This is my last year, I'm going to take that shot," said
Dean, whose game-tying off-balance 3-pointer as time expired in
regulation propelled the Cardinals to an 89-86 overtime win.
"Either way, I was going to take that shot."

The Cardinals (15-7, 3-6) never trailed in the extra session to
revive their Big East tournament hopes while extending Notre Dame's
conference misery. The Fighting Irish (10-10, 1-8) have lost their
eight Big East games by a combined 26 points.

"You knew Dean was going to try to take a forced 3," Notre
Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We tried to steal one on the road, we
had it right there, and that's when we needed to win it, right
there. ... Louisville was fearless to put that game into
overtime."

David Padgett added 24 points and eight rebounds and Brandon
Jenkins hit a layup with 22 seconds left in overtime as Louisville
found a way to survive after suffering a handful of close losses of
its own in its first season in the Big East.

"We made smart plays tonight at the defensive end," Pitino
said. "[Winning] can help [our confidence] immensely."

Chris Quinn had 31 points for Notre Dame and Russell Carter
added 24. But the Fighting Irish couldn't close it out after Quinn
hit two free throws with 12 seconds to play that put them up 80-77.

Instead, they allowed Louisville's best shooter to free himself
at his favorite spot on the floor. Though the play Pitino drew up
broke down, Dean wiggled free. He said the thoughts of missing --
and dropping the Cardinals even further down the totem poll in the
new-look Big East -- didn't even cross his mind.

"All I was thinking was I needed to get the ball up," Dean
said. "If I get it up, I'll make it."

Louisville entered the game tied for 12th in the conference,
while the Fighting Irish were 15th in the 16-team league. Only 12
teams make the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden next
month.

Dean's heroics kept Louisville's hopes of making it to New York
alive. With winnable games against struggling Cincinnati and South
Florida ahead on the schedule, the Cardinals think they may have
turned a corner in their topsy-turvy season.

Louisville was ranked as high as fourth in the nation in
December, but struggled through the first half of their conference
schedule, playing teams tough only to come apart in the last five
minutes. By making the plays when they had to against Notre Dame,
Jenkins said Louisville's seven new players shouldn't be
intimidated anymore.

"It lets them know we can be in there and we can win close
games," Jenkins said. "Don't be scared, just get in there with
confidence."

After playing in so many close games this season, the Fighting
Irish thought they had figured out how to win. But when Quinn
missed a running 3-pointer with 4 seconds left, they dropped their
fifth straight game. All five losses came down to the last shot.

"We should have had poise, we should have been tougher in
overtime," Quinn said.

Still, with seven games left, the Fighting Irish say they
haven't given up hope.

"The mood is fine," Carter said. "Obviously we're distraught
about this game, but it's happened to us before. We're just going
to have to bounce back and continue play hard. That's all we can do
at this point."

The Fighting Irish had been notoriously slow starters during a
brutal early conference schedule, but Quinn's hot shooting gave
Notre Dame an eight-point lead.

Louisville rallied behind Dean and freshman guard Andre McGee.
The Cardinals held Notre Dame scoreless for more than 6 minutes
then used three straight 3-pointers by McGee. The freshman took on
more of a shooter's role because of the absence of freshman
swingman Terrence Williams, who sat out the game for academic
reasons.

The Cardinals were 8-of-13 from 3-point range in the half to
take a 44-38 lead, just the third time in conference play they led
at halftime.

Notre Dame rallied, however, taking a 60-59 lead on a 3-pointer
by Quinn with 9:21 to play, and the teams traded the lead four
times down the stretch.

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