That was the unlikely 65-minute evolution of Notre Dame's 104-101 quintuple (that's five) overtime victory over Louisville last night at the Purcell Pavilion.
It will go down as the most talked about and compelling contest of the college basketball regular season, the longest game in Notre Dame history, and the most memorable moment of the athletic careers of every player wearing gold jerseys.
And for the first 39 game minutes, it was anything but. It was inconsistently officiated, wholly lacking not only aesthetic appeal, but any semblance of fundamental offensive execution, and would be described by the most ardent fan of either team as a poorly played, albeit hotly contested basketball game.
Then Irish guard Jerian Grant went off.
Grant scored 12 points in a wild 45-second span to erase the Cardinals' 56-48 edge, and force overtime -- or in this case, the first overtime -- 60-60, as a delirious Purcell Pavilion crowd attempted to comprehend what it witnessed as the teams readied for the overtime tip.
Grant started his personal party with what can only be described as a sprinting, coast-to-coast three-point shot, racing down the right sideline -- well-covered -- and drilling the offering in front of the Irish bench.
A pair of free throws by Louisville center Gorgui Deng moved the Cardinals lead to 58-51 before Grant came down and ripped the nets from 25-plus feet on the left wing, cutting the deficit to four with 36 seconds left.
Two more Louisville free throws and a six-point edge, 60-54, forced Grant to fire another off-balance bomb, again hitting the bottom of the net, still with 28 seconds remaining. This time Deng missed his ensuing opportunity at the charity stripe -- both offerings -- and a whirling, not-to-be-denied Grant spun into the Louisville lane, crashed into Cardinals forward Wayne Blackshear for a layup plus crucial blocking foul.
Grant's subsequent free throw tied the score with 16 seconds left, Notre Dame's defense held, and the teams and stunned crowd headed to overtime.
"It was one of those things, I was frustrated with myself all game missing easy shots, and I just really didn't want my team to lose," said Grant of his 29-second, 12-point binge. "I felt like I willed us into overtime.
"After I hit that first one I just said 'I'm taking the rest of them.'"
Aside from his 45-seconds of fame, Grant scuffled, entering overtime with six points and a 1 of 7 shooting effort.
"Never seen anything like that," said Irish head coach Mike Brey. "I was about to strangle him for his play up until that point. What he did was amazing. He hits tough shots a lot, but to do that…because people were going up the aisles, and i was thinking, 'Okay, what's the speech? We lose this one, how do we bounce back? But no, I've never seen anything like it."
Let's Play FiveThere's a recurring, well-known factoid among Notre Dame and Louisville basketball fans: when the teams meet, they're going to play overtime. Probably more than one. Probably not five, but overtime nonetheless.
Since the Cardinals joined the Big East in 2005, the two teams have met 11 times, with seven heading into extra sessions. That includes six of the last eight and five of the last six. Notre Dame is 3-2 in the latter segment.
"It was a typical Notre Dame-Louisville game," offered Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino. "They made some just incredible shots. 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 and I've been coaching a long, long time.
"We made a few mental mistakes down the stretch by forcing the issue when we had the lead, but sometimes when you're a bad foul shooting team at times it's not the worse thing in the world to get two points. I'm proud of our guys."
Louisville missed 18 of 48 free throw attempts; the Irish were errant on 16 of 49 as well. Neither team shot it well, with the visitors hitting 33 of 81 overall and 5 of 25 from long range. Notre Dame wasn't much better, connecting on 32 of 77 field goals; 7 of 25 from beyond the arc.
Both needed major contributions from their benches with the Irish fouling out all three big men: Jack Cooley, Tom Knight, and backup Zach Auguste, as well as Grant (in the first overtime) and Louisville losing Deng, guards Peyton Siva and Kevin Ware, and super sub (at least Saturday) Luke Hancock.
"My A.D. (Jack Swarbrick) said they finally found a way to have me play more guys," joked Brey of his need to play the entire lot of available scholarship players (nine). "The contributions by Zach (eight points, three boards, and a tip-in to send the game into the fifth overtime), certainly Cam (Biedscheid), Cam came off the bench and played 50 minutes (and sent the game into overtime #3 with a three-pointer). How about Garrick Sherman? I can't say enough about him. He was a little bit of a forgotten guy."
Forgotten, but not gone. Sherman had not played in either of the team's last two games per Brey's decision. Saturday night he scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds, all in the last 21minutes of the game's five overtimes.
"Those guys won the game for us," said Grant of the bench brigade. "I got us there and they won it. All thanks to them."
Sherman will go down as the extra session hero, hitting 7 of 10 shots including six of Notre Dame's eight points in the third overtime.
"At that point I hadn't planned on playing," said Sherman of regulation. "We were down eight with like a minute left, so I was kind of checked out. But Jerian saved us, got us into overtime, and then we just took it from there. I took it possession by possession, trying to produce, and playing hard.
"After you make a few you always feel a little bit better about the next one. But I was just happy for our team, it's a momentum win, and it can be huge going forward."
It was a huge win last night. But it only counts for one. A big one, Brey admits.
"It's big man. It's big. Seven league wins is very powerful right now. But as I told our team, it only counts one."
One to remember.