SOUTH BEND, Ind. _ Everyone had seen it all with Notre Dame and Louisville, programs inescapably interlocked in madness seemingly every time they took the same floor. And then came a Saturday night perhaps like no one had ever witnessed, yet another dizzying redefinition of basketball insanity by these two teams.
With shot after breathtaking shot and contributions from stars to bit players to characters long forgotten, the Irish and the Cardinals battled into a fifth overtime, with the Irish surviving with a 104-101 victory that was merely the latest version of the two programs extending one another to preposterous lengths, in every sense.
To wit: Notre Dame sought some validation Saturday against the 11th-ranked team in the country, and that search would end, one way or another, on Sunday.
Louisville was up eight against a Notre Dame team seemingly incapable of anything resembling half-court offense and certainly nothing close to a made shot. The Irish, up three at halftime, watched that link slink away by going 10-plus minutes without a single field goal in the second half, missing 16 of their first 19 attempts from the floor.’
The Cardinals were comfortable. Many who had packed Purcell Pavilion to the upper rim headed for the exits.
And then Jerian Grant hit a 3-pointer from the wing with 45 seconds left in regulation, his first basket of an until-then forgettable night.
And then he hit another. And then another. And then came two missed Louisville free throws, and then came Grant barreling to the basket for a bucket and a foul, a three-point play that rattled the roof tiles.
It was suddenly, impossibly 60-60 with 16 seconds left, and after Grant tied up Louisville’s last possession with his quick hands, it was off to the seventh overtime game in the last 11 meetings between the teams.
Grant had the crowd at full froth again in the extra period, finding Zach Auguste for a monster jam and a 66-66 tie. But the air left the place a half-minute later when Grant committed a silly fifth foul with Louisville in transition and the Irish needing him for the final 1:57 of overtime.
But both teams would come up empty with chances to win in the first extra session. Notre Dame with the shot clock violation with 11.7 ticks left, and then Louisville when Russ Smith settled for the out-of-this-ZIP-code 3-pointer at the buzzer that rimmed out. Off to overtime No. 2, tied 68-68.
The Irish started that period with a motley crew lineup featuring the suddenly out-of-favor Garrick Sherman and freshmen Zach Auguste and Cam Biedscheid, entirely out of necessity with Grant and Jack Cooley previously disqualified. And, of course, it figured that Sherman would open the scoring with a tip-in.
Louisville’s Kevin Ware tipped the momentum with a 3-pointer for a 73-72 lead with 1:57 left in double overtime. The teams traded misses, though, and Notre Dame took a timeout with 34.7 seconds left ? and four on the shot clock ? when its half-court offense fizzled. Auguste missed a hook shot, and Smith hit two free throws on the other end for the 75-72 lead.
And then Biedscheid, of course, hit a 3-pointer from the wing with 15 seconds to play to tie it at 75-all. And then Louisville missed two more shots at the other end, and the teams were off to a third overtime.
Things seemed to get away from even-steven in that session with an Atkins turnover that led to a Chane Behanan finish with 1:04 left for an 82-81 Louisville lead. But Sherman would execute a nifty up-and-under move to make it 83-82 irish with 24.8 seconds left, and then Behanan would hit one free throw at the other end to knot it at 83.
Atkins barreled down the lane without a call, resulting in a jump ball situation that went to Louisville with 3.7 seconds left. But a runner by Smith banked out, and a fourth overtime it was.
A Gorgui Dieng jumper was followed by two missed Atkins free throws, which was followed by two Smith free throws for a 91-87 Louisville lead with 1:32 left in the fourth extra session ? and what appeared to be a healthy amount of breathing room on a suffocating night.
Behanan answered two Biedscheid free throws with a jumper to make it 93-89 with 56.8 seconds left. Sherman followed an Atkins miss with 34.2 seconds left and then, inexplicably, Smith took it all the way to the hole with the shot clock off on Louisville’s next possession. He got no call, and he missed the attempt at the rim, with the Irish taking over.
After a timeout with 19.1 seconds left, Notre Dame’s offense was predictably frenetic again, until an Auguste shot went to the rim. Then the rebound pinged between Irish and Cardinals players, finally bouncing off the fingertips of Sherman and in to tie it at 93-93 and lead to a fifth overtime ? a record for the longest game in Notre Dame history.
Two Behanan buckets opened a three-point Louisville lead early in overtime, but Auguste and Sherman erased that with back-to-back scores for a 98-97 lead with 2:36 left in the fifth extra frame. Louisville would tie it at 100, but Atkins followed with a score and then the Cardinals turned it over, making it a two-point Irish lead with 1:04 left.
Out of a timeout with 41.5 seconds left, Atkins drew a foul but missed both free throws. At the other end, Louisville freshman Montrezi Harrell was fouled off his own missed jump shot ? and missed both free throws, air-balling the second attempt with 24 seconds to play.
Atkins then stepped to the line with 19.3 seconds left after a foul on the inbounds, hitting the first but missing the second. Smith then drove the lane for Louisville with 12.6 seconds left, missing the attempt and then missing the second of two free throws to make it 103-101 with 9.8 seconds to go.
Connaughton stepped to the line after getting whacked and hit one of two free throws for the 104-101 lead. Smith missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and every warm body in Purcell Pavilion stormed the court. At the end, Connaughton and Atkins walked off, arm-in-arm, holding each other up all the way to the locker room.