By MALCOLM C. KNOX
Associated Press Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Without seeing or hearing it himself, Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino knows the attitude his next opponent is bringing into their Thursday night game.
Notre Dame (12-10, 3-7 Big East Conference) was riding high when it last played No. 5 Louisville (18-4, 9-1). The Irish were ranked 13th in the country and near the top of the Big East with only one conference loss.
That was a month ago.
Though the Fighting Irish's Luke Harangody led all scorers with 28, they lost 87-73 in overtime to the Cardinals on Jan. 12, scoring only two points in the extra five minutes.
That loss was the first of seven in a row for Notre Dame.
"Sometimes in the Big East, the schedule can -- it happened to us a couple of years ago -- you can get the type of schedule that just can kill you," Pitino said.
Of the Fighting Irish's opponents during that slide, six are ranked in the top 23.
The Cardinals have physical battle scars of their own, but as a team, their standing in the conference is solid for now. Louisville has won 10 of its last 11, including against Notre Dame, and is second in the Big East to Connecticut.
Louisville center Samardo Samuels had two teeth knocked out during the Cardinals' win over St. John's on Sunday. Forward Terrence Williams has a bad bruise and tendinitis in his wrist, and George Goode had to have a cut under his mouth closed with stitches after the game.
"Welcome to the Big East," Pitino said.
But with or without conference positioning on the line or banged-up players, Pitino knows no mercy will be coming during their trip to South Bend.
"You know we're going into a hornets' nest," he said. "You understand the locker room jargon on the other side, what it's going to be like. We've just got to play better defense this time around than we did last time."
The Cardinals had six steals and nine blocks in the earlier game, but also allowed Notre Dame to make 43 percent of its field goals and 45 percent of its 3-pointers. Louisville's Big East opponents are shooting a combined 38 percent from the field and 30 percent from behind the arc.
Pitino's own team has had spurts of good offensive play but depends on its defense to carry them.
"This team wins because of great effort," he said. "This team wins because they're together. So this is not the most offensive, harmonious basketball team I've ever coached. It's just who we are."
Samuels is tied for second on the team in steals and blocks in conference play and says he's ready to face Harangody and the Irish again, new teeth and all.
"I've played against him," Samuels said. "I'm more comfortable with the stuff he does. I'm not intimidated by him being the Big East's leading scorer or whatever he does."
Samuels had been through an individual workout on Wednesday and wasn't affected by his newly repaired mouth and braces, he said.
"I've been through way worse stuff than that in my lifetime," he said.