Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Surviving the Best College Basketball Game of the Season

Notre Dame have already been to a couple of overtime games this season, but no one expected their top 25 clash with Louisville to last five overtimes, with both teams barely separable, and players like Erik Atkins spending 60 minutes on the floor, en route to a very special win.

How close were Notre Dame and Louisville in a game that the Irish won 104-101? Notre Dame shot 41.6% from the field, Louisville, losing for the fifth time this season and four in conference play, shot 40.7%. Both teams grabbed the same number of offensive rebounds (19), both teams took 25 shots from beyond the arc, as the Irish made 7 of them and the Cardinals made 5. Free throw attempts? Notre Dame had 49, Louisville had 48. Notre Dame made 67% of their shots, Louisville made 62.5% of theirs.

Notre Dame were down by eight points with 50 seconds to go, and still managed to come up with the win in the first five overtime game in the NCAA since 2009. Eight players fouled out in the game. Six players spent at least 50 minutes on the floor. Ten players scored in double figures, in a game that ended with numbers reminding us of a pro game, although it took a whole lot more to get there. It turned out to be the longest game in Big East regular-season history.

Mike Brey was in boxing mode this week, and had to use boxing metaphors to explain the experience. I talked about it being a 15-rounder and taking punches and being put on the mat. At the fourth or fifth timeout I said, ‘Has there ever been a 20-rounder? We’re like, 15 round matches, that doesn’t happen. And then we played five overtimes. So that’s how it went.

Rick Pitino, obviously a little bit more than disappointed at the end of the game, was a little shorter with his post-game response. They made some just incredible shots. I can’t fault our defense. We were on them. Small men don’t make for the best of interviewees.

Jerian Grant wasn’t having the best of nights until the final seconds of regulation. Down 56-48 with 51 seconds left, he went on hitting three straight 3-pointers and then tying it on a three-point play with 16 seconds left.

Mike Brey: I’ve never seen anything like that because I was about to strangle him for his play up until that point. What he did there was amazing. Because people were going up the aisles. People were beginning to leave.

The previous record for the conference in the regular season was a four-overtime game that happened 11 years ago to the day and also involved Notre Dame. The Irish beat Georgetown 116-11 in 4 overtimes on Feb. 9, 2002.

A great game, that used drama to hide a lot that is wrong with College Basketball today. The magic of witnessing such a drama and tight game was there, no doubt, but it was very close to another game barely scratching the 110 point mark for both teams combined. Scoring has been trending downward for decades, and is now at its lowest point since the early 1950s. The game is slower than it used to be: Offenses are more efficient but possessions per game are down across the board. One magical five-overtime game won’t change that.

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