LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Consider Louisville's forgettable nonconference season forgotten.
The 20th-ranked Cardinals certainly do.
Terrence Williams had 24 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists and Louisville ran by Notre Dame (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) 87-73 in overtime on Monday night behind the kind of frantic, frenetic play that made its early season stumbles to Western Kentucky, UNLV and Minnesota seem like a long time ago.
"We lost three games and a lot of people were down on us," Williams said. "To take the lead in overtime and execute, that shows that this team is maturing."
Right on schedule for coach Rick Pitino.
The Cardinals (12-3, 3-0 Big East) suffocated the Fighting Irish (12-4, 3-2) over the final 6 minutes of regulation and all of the overtime to win their fourth straight with No. 1 Pittsburgh next on Saturday.
It's a challenge Louisville suddenly seems ready for after slowing down reigning Big East player of the year Luke Harangody. The junior had 28 points and 13 rebounds, but none over the last 11 minutes.
"Every game is going to be a dogfight like this," Harangody said. "You have to forget about it. You can't dwell on it. We're going into another tough atmosphere on Saturday [at No. 8 Syracuse]. It doesn't stop."
It didn't stop late in regulation or overtime, as Louisville's halfcourt defense took Notre Dame out of its normally high-octane offense. Kyle McAlarney had 19 points for the Fighting Irish, but couldn't get free for an open look late.
"Their quotes in the paper said you have to overcome Louisville's pressure early," Williams said. "They didn't say anything about late."
Freshman Samardo Samuels added 18 points, six rebounds and four blocks and Earl Clark had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Louisville.
The teams spent 32 minutes racing up and down the court at the kind of pace that leaned more toward the Atlantic Coast Conference before turning it into another bruising Big East battle down the stretch.
Both teams had a chance to win it at the end of regulation with the game tied at 71, but Notre Dame's Tory Jackson -- with Louisville guard Andre McGee all over him -- threw the ball into the backcourt with .8 seconds left.
"We felt good," McAlarney said. "Tory got in there and that's about as good a shot as we could have got. We just didn't execute."
Louisville got the ball at halfcourt, but Will Scott's jumper from the corner missed badly as the horn sounded.
The Cardinals wasted little time taking control in overtime. Clark gave Louisville the lead for good with a 3-pointer from the corner that put Louisville up 76-73. Samuels followed with a three-point play before reserve freshman center Terrence Jennings blocked Harangody, setting up a runner by Williams that pushed it to 81-73. The Fighting Irish -- who shot just 1-of-8 in overtime -- had no response.
"We were on the ropes a little bit in the second half, but you have to win it in regulation," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "You have to win it on that last possession. Louisville made really key plays in overtime. The wind is taken out of our sails."
The Cardinals, meanwhile, are rolling after winning their third thriller in eight days.
The stretch started with a three-point win over rival Kentucky on Jan. 4, and continued with a 61-60 escape at Villanova on Saturday. Pitino worried his team didn't have anything left emotionally, but the Cardinals responded with arguably their best game of the season.
"Sometimes, [you have] two buzzer-beaters and you have very little energy," Pitino said. "But our guys really reached back."
It's been a sometimes bumpy two months for Samuels, considered one of the top freshmen in the country when the season began. He's struggled against quality opponents but seemed inspired playing against the reigning Big East player of the year, finishing with 18 points, six rebounds and four blocks.
While hardly a match for Harangody's varied offensive game -- Samuels battled foul trouble most of the second half -- the 6-foot-9 Samuels used his width to eventually return the favor. Harangody ended up fouling out with 5 seconds left, the second time he's fouled out this season.
"I think of myself as being the best, so I want to play against the best every night," Samuels said.
Harangody, who had 40 points in a loss to the Cardinals last season, went cold late against Jennings, who had two points, six rebounds and three blocks in 19 minutes. Not bad for a player Pitino has chastised for failing to pick up scouting reports and being too limited on offense.
"I just try to bring it every night and get a victory," Jennings said. "You've got to be ready to go and play when you get your chance."
McAlarney and the rest of the Irish couldn't pick up the slack as they succumbed to Louisville's pressure. Notre Dame played seven players during all but the final minute of overtime while Pitino sent in wave after wave in an effort to turn up the defensive intensity.
"Coach told us they would run out of gas if we kept with it," Jennings said. "He told us to just keep bringing it. That's what we did and we wore them down."