South Bend has been the home of all things magic since the beginning of the College Football season. 7 things (one for every period of basketball played) I’ve learned tonight after 5 overtimes and 26 lead changes between two of the Big East’s top teams.
1. Notre Dame can actually play with the Big East powerhouses late in the game
We may have known this already, but Notre Dame has some guys who can play when it comes to the end of the game. Jerian Grant proved himself to be a big time player, scoring Notre Dame’s final 12 points in the last 44 seconds of regulation (if I had Elias to help me, I could prove that this is some sort of record). Regardless, Grant played like a man on a mission; three consecutive three pointers speak for themselves. Garrick Sherman played well in overtime, especially in the 3rd and 4th overtimes. Not only that, Notre Dame just looked damn happy to be there. Coach Mike Brey was all smiles after the first overtime, and generally looked surprised by the fact that his team was still in the game. My favorite moment of the game will always be the accidental basket that sent the game into a 5th overtime; South Bend has struck again.
2. Notre Dame’s bench is deeper than we thought
3 Notre Dame players fouled out, including their leading scorer and rebounder, Jack Cooley, with 6:54 left in the in the game. Eventually 2 other Notre Dame players fouled out, including regulation hero Jerian Grant. Louisville’s Peyton Siva fouled out with 2:21 left in the 2nd overtime. Both teams had to reach deeper into their benches than normal, including 4 different bench players racking up over 30 minutes. Sherman didn’t even see the floor until the overtimes, and was arguably the most important player in the game, lighting up the scoreboard with 17 points in the last 25 minutes of the game.
3. Dicky V can get really annoying after 65 minutes of basketball
(and that’s not awesome, baby)
4. Russ Smith isn’t a late game leader
Smith took a lot of bad shots…a lot. His shot at the end of 1st overtime was dreadful, and his attempts at late game heroics fell well short of expectations of the Junior Point Guard, who’s averaging over 18 points a game. However, what I saw from this game was Smith’s inability to facilitate and create shots for other players. He had the same number of assists as turnovers (3), and had fewer assists than Peyton Siva (who fouled out 17 minutes before the game finished), Gorgui Deng (the Cardinals’ starting Center, who had 5 assists to lead the team), and Kevin Ware, a bench player who played 24 minutes less than Smith and still managed one more assist. The Cardinals need to find a late game leader, and fast. Chane Behanan played an excellent game, including 30 points and 15 rebounds, and put up an incredible 15 points in overtime, 37% of his team’s 41 points in the overtimes. Perhaps this is going to be their go-to man going forward instead of Smith, who disappeared late.
5. Louisville is still searching for real stability off the bench
Louisville’s most played bench player of the night – Luke Hancock – went 7-19 from the field, and ended up with 46 minutes in this game – more than Wayne Blackshear, who played only 20 minutes. Notre Dame, on the other hand, got quality minutes from 3 different bench players, including Cameron Biedscheid, who played 50 minutes and put up 14 points. Garrick Sherman was very impressive, playing 21 minutes and pulling down 6 rebounds (including 4 offensive boards), shooting 70% from the field, and putting up 17 points, second on the team only to Grant. What people forget is that Sherman started 29 of his career 70 games for Michigan State before deciding to transfer after the 2011 season.
6. Five overtimes requires a second fudge pop
When a friend offers you a fudge pop, you don’t deny it. If your friend offers you a second fudge pop after 5 overtimes, you drown your sorrows in its chocolatey goodness.
7. Free Throws win ballgames
I’m not trying to insult anyone’s intelligence, but even being 6.8% better from the free throw line than the other team can give you the win. Louisville and Notre Dame were virtually identical in almost every category – shooting percentage (40.7 to 41.6), rebounds (51 to 50), assists (23 to 20), turnovers (13 to 16), and even fouls (34 to 32). The difference in free throw percentage, especially late in the game, which opened the door just enough for Notre Dame in the 2nd half, when they looked all but dead. Missed free throws will take down any team, no matter how well they play. Louisville was begging for Siva to be in this game with thirty seconds left, an 87% free throw shooter this season. The impact of him fouling out shone through in the last few minutes of the game.
Bonus: What’s happening to Peyton Siva?
I wanted to keep it at 7 things, because it sounds cool, but I thought it was important enough to point out that Peyton Siva is disappearing off of the college basketball map. Siva looked phenomenal in non-conference play, posting 19 points four different times. Since Big East play began, Siva hasn’t scored 19 points, including in double digits five times. He’s still facilitating: Siva has had double digit assists twice in Big East play, and has had over 7 assists six times. However, Siva has been poor from behind the arc; 8-32 (25%) doesn’t cut it for a Big East guard, especially one who’s suppose to lead a team back to the Final Four.
Great game, great teams…it was awesome, baby.