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Gastelum: Everyone played a part in miracle victory (Feb. 11)

Andrew Gastelum | Monday, February 11, 2013

That wasn’t a court-storming. 

That was a celebration.

Irish coach Mike Brey celebrated that miracle of a win with his players. His players celebrated that miracle of a win with students. Students celebrated that miracle of a win with other students. 

And there was plenty to celebrate. Down eight with 46 seconds, junior guard Jerian Grant became a legend of Notre Dame basketball. He hadn’t made a shot in the first 39:14. Then, he finished with the last 12 points for the Irish, accounting for three 3-pointers and one how-did-that-actually-just-happen moment. Grant was “All Bold Everything,” as he popped a jumper and he was sweating. 

Freshman forward Cameron Biedscheid did too, with the Irish down three with 16 seconds left in the second overtime. So did senior Garrick Sherman?

Yeah, that Garrick Sherman. Apparently, the doghouse lets out for overtime. The 6-foot-10 center hadn’t played in the last two games, and then came in with a casual 17 points and six rebounds when senior forwards Jack Cooley and Tom Knight fouled out. All in overtime. 

And Sherman’s loop-de-loop tip-in with five seconds left to force a fifth overtime had a storybook sparkle to it. All Louisville junior guard Russ Smith had to do was take the foul. Instead, he went for a layup, looking for the touchdown pass when taking a knee would have put it away. 

But the understated hero of the night/morning was Irish junior guard Eric Atkins. 

Yes, he shot an uncharacteristically hasty 3-pointer. Sure, he had a costly turnover at the end of the third overtime. And I do remember some missed free throws that made the game a little too close in the end, but, at that point, what constituted high-blood pressure anyway?

The junior captain played 60 minutes. Sixty. More than anyone else on the floor, and, surely in more than half of those, he was guarding the versatile Smith or handling the ball. He was unassuming, yet motivated, quiet, yet confident. And he was often the only player on the floor with over a full year of game time experience.. He willed the Irish to a win. 

It’s easy to say this game could be the turning point of the season for the Irish, a la Syracuse all the way back in 2012. 

But, what if this game is a turning point for Notre Dame basketball?

I’m convinced it could be, but are the students?

Let it be known that Saturday may be the first time a student section has rushed the court twice. Once after senior Casey Murdock made a half-court shot for $18,000 during College GameDay’s morning broadcast, and once after fans stuck around into Sunday morning for more than three halves of basketball. 

It almost made you wonder if the Monogram Room at the Purcell Pavilion was going to serve breakfast to those who stuck around for a three-and-a-half hour game, the longest in Notre Dame history. 

But those same students who rushed the court following the five-overtime marathon had trouble getting to the Purcell Pavilion on Saturday morning for College GameDay, leaving the scorer’s table side of the building with plenty of empty seats. The same went for the previous home game against Big East contender Villanova.

Brey has had nothing but great things to say about the student body. After all, he needs them on his side. But student turnout at times has been atrocious although the team has recorded six consecutive 20-win seasons in the Big East, and is one win away from a school-record seventh. 

Saturday night, they were all there for the miracle. But will they be there Wednesday night for a matchup with DePaul? 

Maybe all it needs is a miracle.