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February 10, 2013

In their own words


Images by Matt Cashore

It was one of the wackiest, most exhilarating, most exhausting game ever played in Purcell Pavilion. At the very least, it was the longest.

Five overtimes/65 minutes, an incomparable 16 ties and 26 lead changes, and a dizzying array of comebacks while repeatedly on the brink of a second straight loss and a disappointing 6-5 record in Big East play.

No. 25 Notre Dame (19-5, 7-4) defeated No. 11/12 Louisville (19-5, 7-4) Saturday night/Sunday morning, 104-101 - about an hour-and-a-half after fans began to file out of the arena. They missed Jerian Grant’s 12 points in the final 51 seconds that turned an eight-point deficit into the first of many overtimes.

“I’m really proud of my team because many times, we were down in the overtimes and kept fighting back,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey, who coached his 2001-02 Irish to a 116-111 four-overtime victory over Georgetown in Washington D.C. 11 years ago to the day.

Jack Cooley fouled out with 6:54 left in regulation, but still managed to score 11 points and grab 11 rebounds. Grant was eliminated from competition in the first overtime. Tom Knight would follow his teammates to the bench.

The Irish subs scored 39 points - 17 by Garrick Sherman, 14 by Cam Biedscheid, eight by Zach Auguste - which was more than Louisville’s 31 points off the bench.

Another staggering statistic from a hard-to-believe basketball game.

“Everybody was part of it tonight,” Brey said. “It’s one of those magical nights in our building. (Louisville is) really good. They’re hard to score on. I can’t even remember all the big plays different guys made to get us to where we’re at with a win like that. 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 than that one.”

- Brey on Grant, who hit three three-pointers and an “and-one” with 16.2 seconds left to send the game into its first overtime.

“Never seen anything like that,” Brey said. “I was about to strangle him for his play up until that point, and what he did there was amazing. He hits tough shots a lot, but to do that…

“People were going up the aisles. They were starting to leave. I’m thinking, ‘Okay, what’s the speech?’ We lose this one, how do we bounce back? All of a sudden we’re back in it.”

- Brey on the performance of his bench: “My AD said, ‘Finally, they found a way for you to play more guys.’ That was the first thing he said. He got on me. But the contributions by Zach (Auguste), certainly Cam (Biedscheid)…Cam came off the bench and played 50 minutes. How about Garrick Sherman? You can’t say enough about him. He was a little bit of a forgotten guy. To come in and do that for us…We got Austin Burgett in there at the end…It’s something to really build on because a lot of guys were a part of this thing tonight… It’s amazing how different guys stepped forward. But we’ve had that already with Scott Martin going down. Tom Knight came through for us. I think it’s a little bit of a trademark of our program. Guys deliver when we ask them to deliver. But I’m really proud of our group. We had great leadership.”

- Brey on Atkins, who played 60 minutes: “I don’t even know if he can see straight he’s so exhausted. We were pumping fluids in him. He may not be able to work out again until lay-up lines against DePaul (Wednesday night).”

- Brey on Pat Connaughton, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds in 56 minutes: “He was big. We challenged him a little bit. We got after him. The competitor that he is, I felt he would deliver tonight. He was flying all over the place. There was a toughness about him that wasn’t there maybe as much on Monday.”

Brey went into the game featuring a boxing theme. He showed a DVD of famous knockouts to his team the night before, and then had boxing gloves waiting in the players’ lockers when they got to Purcell Pavilion Saturday night.

“We watched a little boxing video last night,” Brey said. “I talked about it being a 15-rounder and taking punches and being put on the mat. At the fourth or fifth overtime, I said, ‘Has there ever been a 20-rounder?’ A guy sent me a video of different knockouts in boxing, and that was our theme for tonight. I think I’ll keep the boxing gloves out on the road for a while.”

Here’s what the Irish players said:

Eric Atkins - “This is the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve never seen what Jerian did, ever. Actually, T-Mac (Tracy McGrady) did something like this with 13 points in 17 seconds. But what Jerian did was great. That was unreal, and then to add all the overtimes to it is just amazing.

“Every shot did feel that big. The first person to score in overtime was like, ‘Man, that’s a huge momentum swing.’ Next person to score, that’s a huge momentum swing. It was back and forth through five overtimes. I’m just proud we kept fighting, even when we were down.

“I remember saying to myself, ‘I’m dead, I’m dead out here.’ Probably like the fourth overtime. I was really exhausted, but I had to be out there. I’m excited and super tired. Those are the two words that would explain me right now. That’s actually three words. But I’m proud of the way everybody stepped up tonight.”

Jerian Grant - “Maybe once in my life I was part of a game-winning shot, but other than that, this is un-comparable. Five overtimes…how many points I had in a minute…it was surreal.”

- On being down by eight points with less than a minute remaining: “The first thing was I do not want to lose this game. Losing two in a row would have been tough to come back from, and I just really didn’t want to lose this game. After I hit the first one, my teammates told me to go get the ball and do something with it. The shots just kept going in. I wanted the ball, and Eric and my teammates were just like, ‘Here, take the ball, go get the ball,’ and that gave me confidence that I could take the next shot.”

Garrick Sherman (17 points, six rebounds in 22 minutes after not playing in four of the previous five games) - “I don’t know, I don’t remember, I didn’t even know I scored 17. I don’t know what just happened, really, I’m just happy we got a win. It was a heckuva game.

“There weren’t any thoughts. I sat there the first two halves so I really didn’t expect to go in, and then (Brey) put me in and I didn’t have much time to think to deliver. I just went out there and played my game.

- On missing his first two free throws: “I wasn’t too worried about it. Just make the ones I take. I’ve been through worse. I’ve been through way worse. I just had to overcome it. Everybody helped me when I was on the court. It wasn’t just me.”

-On earning more playing time in the future: “Hopefully I can get some regulation minutes instead of all overtime minutes. I’m just helping my team. Whenever I go in, I’ll do what I can to help. Today it was in overtime…Everybody steps up. Tom (Knight) comes in and plays well for us the last few games. Everybody steps up and plays their role.”

Pat Connaughton - “I probably saw everyone in the stands at some point. I made eye contact with everyone in the stands. It was just focus. I’ve never been a part of anything like that. I’ve never been a part of anything where you could say, ‘We pretty much lost the game yesterday and won it today.’ That was something incredible.

“It was like, ‘We’ve got to win this,’ because you think back to all the things that happened. Cam hit a shot at the end of one of the overtimes. Jerian scored 12 points in 28 seconds. That was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen in sports. You just can’t lose this. Jack had a double-double and I don’t know if anybody noticed it. Everyone on this team wanted to win for the person next to him and the person next to that person. Everyone played their part, and if we didn’t have any one of those guys, we wouldn’t have won the game.”

- On sitting out the celebration: “I was tired, I couldn’t move my leg. (Connaughton sprained his right foot/ankle in the first half.) I was in (the celebration of the win over Syracuse) last year, so I sat off to the side, saw a few close friends and walked away with Eric. I’m just kind of realizing we won the game.”

Jack Cooley - “At the end of regulation, it was looking bleak. But when you have a player as clutch as Jerian Grant…He had 12 straight points in like 40 seconds. That’s like Reggie Miller. That’s unbelievable. It was incredible how much our team stepped up today.

“What our team was doing at the end there was incredible. If you fight that hard and lose, you’re devastated. There were a bunch of times it looked like it was over. Sherm had 17 points in overtime. How many teams can have someone not play the entire game and then score 17? It’s incredible.”

Zach Auguste (eight points, three rebounds, one block, one steal, one assist in 36 minutes) - “It feels like I played 50 minutes. Right after it happened, everything was crazy. Then I calmed down and you realize we played a great game and we had a great win.

“You definitely don’t have any time to be nervous. You’ve just got to focus and focus on doing what you have to do and playing your role.”


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