Things looked pretty bleak for Notre Dame on Saturday night with less than a minute left in regulation at Purcell Pavilion in their showdown with #11 Louisville. With ESPN College Gameday on hand, the Irish trailed the Cardinals 56-48 as the clock read 0:50 after a Chane Behanan free throw.
Down 8 points with 50 seconds on the clock, Jerian Grant decided to go all Reggie Miller on Louisville with a barrage of three’s that will go down in Notre Dame lore as possibly the greatest single minute individual effort to will the Irish to overtime.
Then the real fun began.
After Behanan’s free throw pushed the Louisville lead to 8 points, Grant flew down the court and drained the first of three three pointers over the final 50 seconds to cut the Cardinals lead to 5. Gorgui Dieng sank both of his free throws to push the lead back to 7. Grant wasn’t done, however, he was only warming up.
Grant needed just six seconds to run down the court and sink his second three to bring the lead back down to 4, but Louisville responded with two more free throws to extend it back to 6 with 33 seconds on the clock. Game over, right? Hardly. The drama had only just begun.
Just 5 seconds after Louisville thought they put the Irish away for good, Grant came back down the court and hit his third three pointer in the span of 16 seconds and the Irish were within three points despite Louisville hitting on 5 of their 6 free throws in the final minute.
With 27 seconds left on the clock now Dieng stepped up tot he free throw line again for a pair of charity shots. This time, however, the Louisville center bricked both attempts leaving the door wide open for the white hot Grant. The Notre Dame junior from Maryland would fail to disappoint once again although he decided to dial the drama up just a tad.
Instead of launching another three pointer, Grant drove the length of the court for an easy lay to cut the lead to one, but got fouled in the process and was sent to the line with a chance to te the game. After hitting his lst four shots, Grant wasn’t about to miss the first uncontested shot he saw in some time. Grant swooshed home the and-1 attempt to knot the game 60.
One player. 12 points. 29 seconds. Eat your heart out, Reggie.
With the game all tied up at 60, Louisville had one final chance to win it in regulation, but failed to do so and headed into overtime wondering what the heck had just happened over the final 50 seconds. To their credit, the Cardinals regrouped and battled to the end over the course of five extra periods of basketball.
In each of the five extra frames, Louisville had a chance to either win or tie the game, but came short on each attempt. Notre Dame, meanwhile, kept scratching and crawling through the five overtimes – which by the way, happened to be a Big East regular season record for extra periods.
The Irish had to do so without the services of Grant for most of the overtime periods though. Their hero from regulation fouled out with just under two minutes remaining in the first period. Senior player of the year candidate Jack Cooley missed all of the overtime fun as well. He fouled out before Grant’s free throw tied things up in regulation.
Even without Grant and Cooley, the Irish were able to come away victorious Saturday night in front of a raucous home crowd that was treated to 25 extra minutes of basketball during which the two Big East rivals added 44 and 41 points respectively after scoring just 60 points a piece during the first 60 minutes of action. Garrick Sherman, Cameron Biedscheid, and Eric Atkins picked up the slack for their teammates who were restricted to cheerleading duties for the extra time.
The game finally ended after Louisville failed to connect on a three point attempt after a Pat Connaughton free throw with 10 seconds remaining pushed the Irish lead to 104-101. As Russ Smith’s disparition three came up short and time expired the Irish student body rushed the floor to celebrate a comeback that will be talked about for years to come.