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Men’s Basketball: Irish outlast Cardinals in 2 OT road win

Douglas Farmer | Saturday, January 7, 2012

LOUISVILLE – Notre Dame’s 67-65 double overtime victory Saturday over No. 10 Louisville ended one undesirable streak, while continuing one absurd trend.

The win at the KFC Yum! Center was the first for the Irish (10-6, 2-1 Big East) on the road this season, having lost their six previous attempts. Notre Dame and Louisville have now notched seven overtimes in their last six meetings, spanning four seasons.

“I think we saw a young team maybe grow up before our very eyes today in Louisville,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I thought we did a great job defending and rebounding to steal one on the road which is what we try to do in Big East play.”

Each period featured a different Notre Dame star, from senior guard Scott Martin in the first half to junior forward Jack Cooley in the second half to sophomore guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins in the overtimes.

“We really were very patient,” Brey said. “Didn’t want to get in a hurry. Even when we were down a couple of possessions we stayed true to that slower pace.”

Atkins scored the final meaningful points of both the second half and the extra periods, including the final six Irish points in the second overtime, hitting two jump shots and then two free throws with 4.9 seconds left to seal it. He also drew an offensive foul on the Cardinals (13-3, 1-2) with less than a minute left to earn an extra Notre Dame possession.

The recently-named team captain also tied the first overtime with a free throw with 3.7 seconds remaining.

But before the overtimes could be played, Notre Dame needed its 50-minute workhorse to hit a deep three-pointer with 26.3 seconds left in regulation. The shot was the final attempt for either team in scheduled play. Atkins finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.

“Young guards played fearlessly today,” Brey said. “Grant and Atkins, I knew I’d be turning the team over to them, I didn’t know it would be this early in their careers. Given some injuries, it’s their team, and man did they have the look today.”

Before Atkins’ overtime-clinching heroics, Grant kept the Irish in the mix with three free throws early in the second overtime and a deep three early in the first overtime. The three gave Notre Dame a 57-54 lead and were the only Irish points until Atkins’ free throw. Grant tallied 17 points on 4-of-13 shooting, though he went 3-for-8 from beyond the arc.

Cooley and Martin carried Notre Dame through most of the first 40 minutes. Cooley had a game-high 18 points complemented by 10 rebounds while Martin poured in 11 points and snared a game-high 12 rebounds, filling out his stat line with three assists, three steals and one blocked shot. Nine of Martin’s points came as the final nine points for Notre Dame in the first half. That outburst broke quite a slump for the senior captain, as he did not score a single point in Notre Dame’s loss Wednesday night at Cincinnati.

“This guy is leading, he’s defending and rebounding and setting the tone for us and just keeps on hanging in there,” Brey said of Martin. “I think this is something maybe he can launch off of.”

Though the Irish finally notched a road win and evened the four-year series between these teams at 3-3, their shooting woes continued. Notre Dame, a team which thrives on the three-pointer, hit five of its 26 attempts from deep, a 19.2 percentage, and shot only 31.7 percent overall.

“To win in this atmosphere, where it was loud and we had every reason to get frazzled a little bit with some young guys,” Brey said. “[The Cardinals] are really good. We caught them on a night where we were able to defend and control the tempo. It’s a great road win for us.”

Forwards Kyle Kuric and Chane Behanan paced the Cardinals with 17 points and 10 rebounds apiece.

The Irish return to the court Tuesday at the Purcell Pavilion against South Florida.