Feb 10, 2013, 5:44 PM EDT
Saturday evening at the Purcell Pavilion marked one of the greatest exhibitions of solidarity that one could ever hope to see in the world of sports. The Fighting Irish put together one of the greatest collective efforts in team history, and rewarded an unfaltering crowd with a classic finish that will never be forgotten.
The Leprechaun Legion made sure Louisville knew early that they were going to be a force to reckon with. If they wanted to escape South Bend with a win, they were not only going to have to contend with the five men in gold on the floor, but also with the sea of green maniacs piling into the Notre Dame student section. And the Irish fans certainly didn’t disappoint. The atmosphere inside Purcell was one that could only be described in one way – just plain crazy.
In a game that saw an unbelievable 26 lead changes, there was almost never a time when the energy level in the building subsided. The only instance may have been when the Cardinals held an eight-point lead with only 51 seconds to play in regulation. Some fans began to head for the exits – and probably not without just cause – but for the most part, the Irish faithful remained in their seats, if only to watch the final seconds run off the clock.
The game was over. Nothing but a miracle could have saved the Irish from their second straight BIG EAST loss. But then a miracle came. Jerian Grant, in one of the most improbable and heroic displays of gutsy shooting, single-handedly breathed life into not only his teammates, but every single Irish fan that decided to stick it out until the very end. And when Grant’s free throw to tie the game passed through the net, the electricity in the building returned to its peak, and this time it was there to stay.
There were plenty of times throughout the seemingly never-ending affair when Irish fans could have argued that the game was all but lost. Jack Cooley and Tom Knight were forced to make early exits due to foul trouble, and in the first overtime period, Jerian Grant, the man who brought the Irish back from the dead, was also sent to the bench with five fouls. Many teams would shut down with three starters out of the game – not to mention senior captain Scott Martin out with an injury – but it didn’t seem to shatter the confidence of the resilient Fighting Irish.
Maybe it was seeing Cooley and Grant frantically coaching their teammates on from the sideline, maybe it was watching two freshmen play five overtime periods with the poise of seniors, maybe it was taking in the herculean effort by Garrick Sherman, but the Purcell crowd was easily able to reciprocate the team’s “this game is ours” attitude. The team fed off the crowd, and the crowd fed off the team.
And when the clock finally hit zero in the fifth and final overtime period, bedlam ensued, but not before a seemingly collective exhale by everyone who stayed and saw Saturday night turn into Sunday morning. The combination of the thrilling display on the floor and the unmatched crowd atmosphere made Saturday’s contest the kind of game that will forever be replayed and reconstructed in the memories of those who were on hand to witness it.
About In The Paint
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