Sunday, February 10, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Notre Dame 104, L'ville 101
By Eamonn Brennan
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A quick reaction to Notre Dame's five-overtime, 104-101 victory over Louisville on Saturday night, the longest regular-season game in Big East history:
Overview: Five overtimes? Of course.
In a season filled with constant upsets and countless endings as strange as they are thrilling, the Irish victory over Louisville was undoubtedly the strangest -- and the most exciting.
For the first 39 minutes, it was utterly predictable. For the final minute of regulation, and the five overtimes that followed, it was as crazy as anything we've seen since Connecticut and Syracuse played six OTs in the 2009 Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. (In fact, it was the first college basketball game to go over five overtimes since that night in New York.)
This being college basketball in 2013, even the ugliest and least-appealing games can end with utter mind-blowing surprise, and that's also what we got Saturday night. Notre Dame looked cooked with as few as 50 seconds left, but Irish guard Jerian Grant hit a trio of deep 3-pointers, Louisville missed a few free throws, and when Grant drove to the basket to make a game-tying three-point play, all of a sudden the game was tied at 60. And for the fifth time in the last six meetings ... overtime.
Just how crazy was this? Notre Dame took 39 minutes and 10 seconds to score 48 points. It took 29 seconds to score 12. All 12 were scored by Grant, who was 0-for-6 from the field up to that point.
Nor did the Irish fade in overtime -- all five overtimes, that is -- even as foul problems took stars Jack Cooley and Grant and eventually pretty much everyone else off the floor. The Irish clamped down on the defensive end and got to the line frequently to keep the Cardinals from opening another lead wider than a possession.
Louisville's Russ Smith had a chance to win the game at the end of the first OT, but the kid Cardinals coach Rick Pitino nicknamed "Russdiculous" took one of the most nickname-worthy shots of his career, waiting until just a few seconds remained before launching a baffling 26-footer that clanged off the glass and left his teammates no time to rebound it. He could have ended the second overtime, too, and he did his part, hitting two key free throws in the final seconds. He could have ended the fourth -- he shot the ball with a dead shot clock and a one-on-three fast break for no other reason than the fact that he's Russ Smith.
Somehow, the star of overtime was Garrick Sherman, who didn't even play in four of Notre Dame's previous six games. His rebounding and post buckets were the most important of the game, seemingly over and over again. His tip-in sent us to the fifth overtime. After not playing a second in regulation, Sherman finished with 17 points on 7-of-10 from the field.
Mercifully, that's where it ended. Down three, Smith took another long 3, and it ended. It actually ended.
Turning point: Pretty much everything that happened from the final minute onward. There's not a whole lot more I can tell you than that.
Star of the game: For as ugly as Louisville's offense was -- and as wild as things got throughout the various bonus times -- the one consistent factor was the interior scoring of Cardinals forward Chane Behanan's interior scoring. His 30 points came on 13-of-20 from the field with added 14 rebounds, and he was really the calmest go-to option Louisville had throughout. The Cardinals didn't win, but Behanan's performance was by far Saturday's best.
Key stat: Notre Dame entered the final minute of regulation with 48 points. It ended regulation with 60. It ended the game with 104. Your guess is as good as mine.
Up next: Louisville gets a return home and bit of a rest before a tricky and talented St. John's team comes to town Thursday, while Notre Dame will have a nice opportunity to get that offense clicking again when lowly DePaul arrives Wednesday.
5+ OT Games Men's College Basketball In Past 15 Seasons