South Bend, IN – Louisville and Notre Dame have been known to battle into overtime the last few years, but Saturday's meeting was one for the record books.
The thrilling Top-25 matchup lasted five overtimes -- the longest regular season game in the Big East's storied history -- with the 25th-ranked Fighting Irish somehow battling back from eight down in the final minute of regulation to steal a sensational 104-101 victory over the 11th-ranked Cardinals.
"It was a typical Notre Dame-Louisville game," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.
Jerian Grant erupted for 12 points in the final 45 seconds of regulation, and Louisville was unable to answer on its last possession before the overtime bonanza began. The Cardinals actually had a chance to pull out the win at the end of the first four overtimes, but came up empty each time.
"I have hit game-winning shots before, but there is nothing that really compares to this," Grant said. "That final minute in regulation was just surreal. I was just thinking that I did not want to lose that game."
Eric Atkins, who played an epic 60 minutes, put in a go-ahead bucket late in the fifth overtime, and the heavy-legged Irish (19-5, 7-4 Big East) held on from there to the excitement of the Purcell Pavilion crowd.
It was the sixth time in the last eight meetings these programs played past regulation, with Saturday's showdown featuring 16 ties and 26 lead changes.
Grant led Notre Dame with 19 points, but fouled out in the first overtime. The Irish's leading scorer, Jack Cooley, had 11 points and 11 rebounds but also exited early after committing his sixth foul with 6:54 left in regulation.
The slack was picked up by Atkins (14 points), Pat Connaughton (16) and Garrick Sherman, who scored all 17 of his points after not even playing in regulation.
Chane Behanan logged 30 points and 14 rebounds for the Cardinals (19-5, 7-4), who had won three straight and were looking for their first win in South Bend since Feb. 26, 1994.
They appeared well on their way as Notre Dame missed eight consecutive shots while going 10-plus minutes without a field goal in the second half. Behanan's free throw yielded a 56-48 lead with under a minute to play before the improbable happened.
Grant, who was 0-for-6 from the field at that point, went off for three 3- pointers to pull the Irish within 60-57. After Gorgui Dieng missed two free throws with 25.1 seconds remaining, Grant drove the lane for a quick two and was fouled as his layup fell through.
The free throw tied things with 16.2 seconds showing, and Louisville was unable to get a shot off as it dribbled too much of the clock away.
The Cardinals also had a chance to win it at the end of a tight first overtime. Russ Smith, however, casually walked up the court and missed an ill- advised 27-footer as the buzzer sounded.
Louisville reserve Kevin Ware made a go-ahead 3-pointer in the second overtime before two free throws by Smith gave Louisville a 75-72 cushion with 25.4 seconds to go.
With Grant having fouled out, the Irish had few options on the offensive end, but Cameron Biedscheid drilled an unlikely tying 3-pointer.
Smith again had a chance to put in the deciding bucket. This time his floater in the lane rimmed out, and Behanan's tip-in didn't fall either, forcing another five minutes of action.
A 1-of-2 trip to the foul line by Behanan knotted things at 83-all with 16.2 seconds to go in the third overtime, and a jump ball in the lane gave the ball back to Louisville with 3.7 seconds left. Smith rushed up the court and his runner at the top of the key didn't fall, though the shot would not have counted anyway.
Neither team led by more than three points in the first three overtimes, but Dieng hit a go-ahead jumper prior to two Smith free throws to give the Cardinals a 91-87 lead with 1:32 to go in the fourth OT.
It was still a four-point game, 93-89, heading into the final minute before Sherman cleanup up an Atkins miss. Smith then inexplicably missed a contested layup with plenty of time left on the shot clock, and Notre Dame called timeout with 19.1 ticks to go.
A hook shot from Zach Auguste rolled off the rim and was batted around, and Sherman somehow tipped it in with 5.1 seconds showing.
"We needed a bucket. Zach shot it. We were all just going after the ball and I guess luck just went our way. It was pretty much a blessing," Sherman said.
Smith lost the ball after crossing midcourt and once again failed to get a shot off as time expired.
In the deciding OT, Atkins got a runner to fall with 1:20 to play to break a 100-100 tie. It proved to be the final field goal for either team.
Montrezl Harrell had a chance to pull the Cardinals even at the foul line with 24 seconds left, but missed his first try and airballed the second.
Connaughton made 1-of-2 from the stripe with nine seconds left for a 104-101 advantage, and Smith's 3-pointer at the other end drew all rim before the student section happily rushed the court to properly conclude the three- hour, 40-minute slugfest.
"Where do you want me to start? Because I don't know where to start. Unbelievable," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "I'm really proud of my team because many times we were down and in the overtime and kept fighting back. Everybody was part of it tonight. It's one of those magical nights in our building."
The Irish scored seven of the last nine points in a close first half to go into the break holding a 27-24 edge. The Cardinals opened the second half on an 11-2 run, and never trailed until the first overtime.
This was the longest game in Notre Dame history ... Louisville is 0-4 in South Bench since joining the Big East ... Notre Dame is 4-1 against a ranked Louisville squad ... Smith and Dieng each recorded double-doubles for the Cardinals, who got 22 points from Luke Hancock ... Biedscheid had 14 points for the Irish.