The story of Notre Dame’s longest men’s basketball game started with Jerian Grant having an out-of-body experience over the final 51 seconds, when he poured in 12 points to send Saturday’s contest against Louisville to the first of five overtimes. Long after Grant had fouled out, a patchwork Fighting Irish lineup found a way to finish off the Cardinals for a 104-101 victory.
Jerian Grant scored 12 points in the final minute of regulation to push the game to overtime
What happened between Grant's heroics and the next 25 minutes is kind of a blur for all parties involved.What's certain is it was the longest regular-season game in Big East Conference history.
“It’s just one of those things,” said Grant, who finished with a team-high 19 points despite missing the final 23 minutes in what was the seventh time in the last 11 meetings with Louisville the game required at least one overtime for a decision. “I was frustrated all game with myself missing easy shots. I just really did not want my team to lose. I feel like I willed us into overtime.”
Notre Dame (19-5, 7-4 Big East) led 27-24 at halftime and missed 16 of its first 19 attempts from the field in the second frame. Louisville (19-5, 7-4) built an eight-point lead with 1:28 remaining in regulation before Grant knocked down a pair of free throws and freshman forward Zach Auguste stole the ball and dished it to sophomore guard Pat Connaughton for a layup to cut the deficit to 53-48 with 1:09 to play.
Louisville scored the next three points before Grant, who didn't have a field goal in the game up to that point, channeled former Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller and buried back-to-back-to-back deep contested 3-pointers followed by an old fashioned 3-point play that tied the game at 60-60 with 16 seconds remaining.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Brey said. “I was about to strangle him for his play up until that point, and what he did there was amazing. He hits shots a lot, but to do that, because people were going up the aisles — they were starting to leave. … All of the sudden we’re back in it.”
With senior forward Jack Cooley (11 points and 11 rebounds) having fouled out well before the end of regulation, and fellow senior forward Tom Knight (five points, five rebounds) having also picked up his fifth foul in the final minute of the second half, head coach Mike Brey relied on senior point guard Eric Atkins (14 points) and Connaughton (16 points, 14 boards) to direct the final 21 minutes.
Connaughton snagged a crucial defensive rebound and finished on the other end with a jumper to tied things up at 64 points apiece midway through the first overtime. Auguste added a two-handed jam and Connaughton drained two free throws to send the game to a second extra period.
Louisville’s Chane Behanan, who only had six points and two rebounds in the first half, carried the Cards the rest of the way, finishing with a game high 30 points and 15 rebounds. But Notre Dame got its lift from forgotten senior center Garrick Sherman, who entered the game in overtime after not playing since a three-minute stint against Villanova on Jan. 30.
After Biedscheid banged in a 3-pointer to tie the game at 75-75 and push it to a third overtime, Sherman found his rhythm, scoring six points over the next five minutes to keep playing past midnight.
Wiley guard Russ Smith gave Louisville a 93-89 lead with 57 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime and Sherman collected on offensive rebound and scored, then was credited with a wild game-tying bucket with five seconds left when he and Auguste swatted a missed Auguste layup back towards the backboard and to extend the game to a fifth and final OT period.
Sherman, who ended up posting 17 points and six rebounds, scored three more points over the final five minutes, combining with Atkins’ five points to finish off Pitino’s squad. Smith had a chance to tie it, but his 3-point attempt was no good and the Irish students, many of whom had been in the building for 24 hours, stormed the court.
“Where do you want me to start?” Brey said. “Because I don’t know where to start. Unbelievable. … Everybody was part of it tonight. It’s one of those magical nights in our building. … I can’t even remember all of the big plays different guys made to get us to where we’re at with a win like that. We’ve had a lot of good wins in this building, but I can’t remember one more thrilling or dramatic with different twists and turns.”
When it was all said and done, Notre Dame finished 32-for-77 from the field (41.6 percent) and 7-for-25 from behind the arc (28 percent). Brey said earlier in the week he thought his team would need to make eight triples to win the game. The Irish shot only 67.3 percent (33-for-49) from the foul line.
Louisville, which got 21 points from Smith, 17 from center Gorgui Dieng and 22 from Luke Hancock, was 33-for-81 from the field (40.7 percent) and just 5-for-25 from the 3-point line. The Cardinals made 30 of 48 free-throw attempts (62.5 percent).
Both teams ended the night/morning with 54 total rebounds, Notre Dame had the edge in points in the paint (42-38) and bench scoring (39-31), but were way behind in points off turnovers (23-5). The Irish turned the ball over 18 times compared to Louisville’s 14.
Without starter and co-captain Scott Martin, a sixth-year senior who has missed the last five games with a knee injury, the Irish used nine players in the victory. Of those dressed, only walk-on Patrick Crowley did not see action.
“The contributions, certainly by Zach and Cam were huge,” Brey said. “Cam came off the bench and played 50 minutes. How about Garrick Sherman? I can’t say enough about him.”
Atkins registered 60 minutes and only turned the ball over three times. Connaughton played 56 minutes and added seven assists to his line.
The lead changed 26 times and the score was tied 16 times. Notre Dame moved into a three-way tie for fifth place in the Big East standings with seven games to play. The Irish host DePaul Wednesday at 7 p.m.