LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Leading by six with 8 1/2 minutes remaining, No. 13 Louisville had outplayed third-ranked Notre Dame and appeared headed to a win that would put them atop the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Cardinals were up 55-49 after hitting their first three shots of the fourth quarter but went cold after that, finishing the game just 2 of 19 in Sunday's 66-61 loss.
"When you're a playing a team like this, you've got to be able to score," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. "Defensively, I thought we did a great job. I told our kids if we could hold them in the 60s, I really thought we'd win. But I didn't expect us to go 5-for-22 in the fourth period."
The loss was the Cardinals' first in conference play and snapped their 15-game winning streak.
"It's extremely frustrating," Louisville guard Briahanna Jackson said. "We had them the entire game I feel like it's just a level of maturity that we still have to reach with all the young players that we have."
Louisville (18-6, 10-1 ACC) began the season No. 8 but soon fell out of the Top 25 after a 1-4 start. The Cardinals hadn't lost since falling at in-state rival Kentucky on Dec. 10, but Walz said Sunday's finish presents another teaching moment for his team.
"There's a lot of basketball still left to be played," Walz said. "We can go one of two ways: We can keep building on what we've done over the past two months or we can feel sorry for ourselves. And I absolutely refuse to let them feel sorry for themselves."
Forward Cortnee Walton's game-high 13 rebounds pushed Louisville to a 44-35 rebounding edge. She's hoping for another chance against the Fighting Irish in postseason play.
"I thought we were going to win but it just gives us more fire to win out in the ACC and then beat them in the ACC tournament," Walton said.
Madison Cable scored five straight points in the fourth quarter, including a big 3-pointer with two minutes remaining, as Notre Dame (23-1, 11-0 ACC) earned its 16th straight victory.
Down 55-49, the Fighting Irish rallied to tie it twice before Cable's two free throws with 3:07 left put them ahead for good at 59-58. Her subsequent long-range jumper provided a four-point cushion and Notre Dame sealed the hard-fought win with four more free throws.
Cable and Brianna Turner each had 13 points for the Fighting Irish, who were led by Arike Ogunbowale's 15 points.
Myisha Hines-Allen led Louisville with 16 points but fouled out late. She also grabbed seven rebounds, but her fifth foul opened the door for Notre Dame for complete its amazing comeback after trailing most of the game.
Mariya Moore added 12 points and Briahanna Jackson 11 for the Cardinals, who finished 36 percent from the field.
After trading the lead early on, Louisville steadily moved ahead behind 10-of-20 shooting in the first quarter with Moore's eight points leading the way. The Cardinals' mix of zone and man defenses was also effective in frustrating Notre Dame's shooting.
Louisville led 35-30 at halftime as a result and stretched it to 43-34, which wasn't enough against a Notre Dame team that just wouldn't wilt on the road.
"They came at us with everything they had," Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. "They played extremely well at the beginning of the game and we were just able to figure out a way to at the end."
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish improved to 6-1 against ranked foes. ... Notre Dame has won 26 straight games decided by single digits or in overtime.
Louisville: The Cardinals' winning streak included three wins over ranked teams, including two while they were unranked.
Notre Dame: Hosts Miami on Sunday.
Louisville: Visits Pittsburgh on Thursday.