Reviewing a Magical Saturday Night at Notre DamePosted by WCarey on February 11th, 2013
Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He was situated courtside for Saturday night’s five-overtime classic between Louisville and Notre Dame. You can follow him at @walkerRcarey.
Notre Dame 104, Louisville 101, in five overtimes. The events of Saturday night and early Sunday morning at the Purcell Pavilion on the campus of Notre Dame will not soon be forgotten — in fact, Notre Dame’s win over 11th-ranked Louisville in five overtimes will likely have a permanent place in Irish lore. The arena was electric all night as the Irish student section, known as the Leprechaun Legion, arrived early and brought noise and energy to the equation from before the game all the way up to when it rushed the court following the final buzzer of the fifth overtime. Even when it looked like all was lost for the Irish near the end of the second half, the building was still buzzing. For a university that has quite the reputation as a “football school,” Notre Dame showed it was plenty capable of providing an outstanding atmosphere for a major college basketball game.
While the atmosphere itself was incredible, the way the Irish topped the Cardinals was perhaps more unbelievable. Notre Dame senior forward Jack Cooley, arguably the team’s most productive player, fouled out with 6:54 to play in regulation, thus leaving the Irish with a gaping hole in the interior. Moreover, Louisville led by eight points, 56-48, with just 51 seconds to play. That was when the madness began. Notre Dame junior guard Jerian Grant, who had not made a shot from the field all evening, converted on three consecutive three-pointers and then followed that up by tying the game with an old-fashioned three-point play. When Grant’s free throw made its way through the nylon with 16 seconds on the clock, the game was tied at 60 and the Irish had erased what appeared to be an insurmountable deficit in just 35 seconds.
The Irish faithful could have believed that all hope was lost when new hero Grant was assessed his fifth foul with 1:57 to play in the first overtime period. The player who led the Irish back from the dead had to join fellow Irish starters Cooley and senior forward Tom Knight on the bench as foul casualties. While Grant, Cooley, and Knight were no longer able to help their team on the floor, the three veterans became the team’s biggest cheerleaders, as barking out instructions and cheering on their teammates with enthusiasm. Losing three starters would be a death blow for most teams, but the resilient Irish weathered the storm and received admirable performances in their place from reserves Cam Biedscheid, Zach Auguste, and Garrick Sherman.
Sherman’s performance in particular showcased just how resilient Notre Dame was Saturday night. The senior from Kenton, Ohio, did not see a second of playing time until Grant fouled out in the first OT, but that did not stop the forward from making an enormous impact with his opportunity. In his 22 minutes of playing time, Sherman tallied 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and collected six important rebounds. It usually would make no sense that a third-stringer would put up those kind of numbers against a Louisville front line that features standout forwards Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng, but Saturday night — a night where seemingly anything was possible for the home team — Sherman’s performance was only fitting.
When the final buzzer of the fifth overtime sounded for a game that featured 16 ties and 26 lead changes, the Leprechaun Legion rushed the court and celebrated the improbable victory with the miraculous Irish. Even after sitting through an entire game plus five overtimes, the RTC was full of an energy that was only befitting to cap off such a magical night.
In his postgame remarks, Irish coach Mike Brey said, “It was one of those magical nights in our building.” While sometimes a comment like that from a head coach is clear hyperbole, anyone who was at the game on Saturday night fully understand what Brey meant. It was another magical night in the midst of a college basketball season that already seen its fair share of magical nights. For a sport that Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds recently said is “in shambles,” college basketball has done a wonderful job of captivating its fans all season long and with the craziness we have already seen, it is only logical it will continue until the national champion cuts down the nets in early April.