It was exhilarating, exhausting and historic. Notre Dame prevailed 104-101 over Louisville in a five-overtime thriller that lasted into Sunday morning and was the longest regular-season game in Big East history.
Eric Atkins used the last of his rapidly diminishing energy to hit go-ahead layup and added a insurance free throw late in the fifth overtime in front of 9,149 fans at Purcell Pavilion.
“I don’t know if he can see straight, he’s so exhausted,” a buoyant Irish coach Mike Brey said.
Atkins’ go-ahead bucket gave Notre Dame a 102-100 lead and the Irish were finally able to put away a game that lasted near 3 1/2 hours and ended at 12:35 a.m. ET.
“Many times we were down in the overtimes and kept fighting back,” Brey said. “Everyone was a part tonight. It was one of those magical nights in our building. We’ve had a lot of good wins in this building. I can’t remember one more thrilling and dramatic with different twists and turns.”
Notre Dame (19-5, 7-4) placed six players in double figures. Joining Atkins was Jerian Grant with 19 points, Garrick Sherman with 17 off the bench after starter Jack Cooley fouled out, Pat Connaughton with 16, Cameron Biedscheid with 14 and Cooley with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“(Notre Dame) made some incredible shots,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “I can’t fault our defense. We were on them. Their shots were incredible, so we’ve got to give them a lot of credit because I’ve never seen shots like that.”
Chane Behanan collected a game-high 30 points and 15 rebounds for Louisville (19-5, 7-4). Luke Hancock scored 22 points, Russ Smith had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Gorgui Dieng added 17 points and 13 boards.
“You have to love games like this,” said Behanan, a sophomore forward. “Just for the simple fact that every time (we) meet, it’s always overtime. The strongest will survive.”
Sunday dawned as the fourth overtime began and Notre Dame trailed late before Sherman’s tip-in with five seconds left tied the score at 93.
In the third overtime, Behanan hit the second of two free throws with 16.2 seconds left for an 83-83 tie, but Smith’s bid to beat the buzzer with a jumper failed.
Grant scored nine points in the final 45 seconds of regulation as Notre Dame rallied from a late seven-point deficit to force the first extra session. The Irish guard hit two 3-pointers, had a driving layup and a tying free throw with seconds to play.
The first overtime ended deadlocked at 68 after Smith’s try for a winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer hit the backboard.
Notre Dame forced a third overtime when Biedscheid hit a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left for a 75-75 deadlock.
Notre Dame led 27-24 at halftime, but Louisville overtook the cold-shooting Irish early in the second half and twice opened six-points leads. The second came on a Hancock drive and bucket for a 37-31 advantage with 13:10 left.
The Irish then rattled off six straight points — including two Biedscheid jumpers — to tie at 37. But Notre couldn’t push ahead of Louisville, which went on a 10-3 surge for a 47-40 lead with 7:04 left in regulation.
Neither team managed a field goal for next six-plus minutes until Smith drove for a bank shot with 1:24 to play and a 52-45 lead.
Louisville appeared in control with a 58-51 lead with 42 seconds left after two Dieng free throws, but Grant’s nine points in the final 36 seconds of regulation dramatically shifted Notre Dame’s fortunes.
The first half saw 12 lead changes and two ties. The Irish built the edge thanks to a Connaughton baseline 3-pointer, a Cooley layup and two Atkins free throws in final two minutes.
Both teams struggled offensively in the opening minutes with a collective 15 shots and just six points between them. Notre Dame went 1 of 8 (12.5 percent) in that span.
Nine minutes elapsed before a team hit double digits as Cooley’s short jumper gave Notre Dame an 11-8 lead. But poor shooting continued with neither team above 30 percent from the field.
Hancock had no such troubles. He hit three 3-pointers in nine minutes and closed the half with a game-high nine points.
Shooting percentages recovered somewhat late in the half. The Irish went 10 of 23 from the field (43.5 percent) and Louisville was 10 of 26 (38.5 percent).
via Sports Xchange