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SHELBYVILLE, KY –
They say defense wins you championships. In regards of tonight’s Louisville vs. Notre Dame game it looked like Louisville was the runner up to Notre Dame’s championship. Both teams played very well defensively but those great defensive efforts were fluffed up slightly due to both teams inability to get anything going offensively. The Cardinals weren’t able to muster up enough offense even though they forced Notre Dame into a more than ten minute drought of not hitting a field goal. The Irish fought back on the back of Jerian Grant who scored twelve points in the last 47 seconds to tie it up at 60 and force overtime for the fifth time in the last six games between the two Big East rivals. Just like last season, one overtime would not be enough.
The game started out sloppy and slow due to the horrid shooting and long half court possessions instituted by Notre Dame that chewed up nearly the full thirty five seconds of the shot clock. It finished with the excitement to make even the coolest cat chew off his fingernails and toenails. Fouls were abundant as Notre Dame lost three players in Jack Cooley, Jerian Grant and Tom Knight while Louisville lost starting point guard, Peyton Siva along with Kevin Ware, Luke Hancock and Gorgui Dieng. Almost immediately after Siva was taking his spot on the Louisville bench with his fifth foul, Kevin Ware came in and hits a huge three-pointer to give the Cards the lead back at 73-72 with just over a minute to go. It looked like the Cards had the win…again, after Russ Smith hit two free throws to put the Cards up 75-72 with fifteen seconds to go in the second overtime. Cue freshman, Cameron Biedscheid who was averaging 7.5 points per game. With nine seconds to go, he hits a three from the left wing for his twelfth point to tie it up again and send it to overtime number three.
When all the smoke had cleared, the luck of the Irish was too much to overcome and the Cards lost what they thought, was a locked up win, 104-101 in the fifth overtime. Louisville had several chances to put the game away but when you shoot .625% (30-48) from the free throw line and .200% (5-25) from three point range it makes it very hard to finish off a good team. Statistical leaders for the Cardinals were Chane Behanan with 30 points (career high) and 14 rebounds and Gorgui Dieng with 5 assist. For Notre Dame, Jerian Grant had 19 points while Pat Connaughton had 14 rebounds and 7 assist. Other notables were Russ Smith with 21 points and 10 rebounds, Dieng with 17 points and 13 rebounds and Hancock with 22 points and 4 rebounds. For the Irish, Eric Atkins had 14 points and 5 rebounds, Jack Cooley had 11 points and 11 rebounds, Garrick Sherman had 17 points and 6 rebounds and Cameron Biedscheid had 14 points.
In a game that had every aspect of an instant classic and will be talked about by many fans for a long time, it was also a game that could have huge implications on the upcoming Big East and NCAA Tournaments. Stay tuned for more nail biters in this already crazy college basketball season that has shown it’s very difficult to stay clear of the upset bug.