Leading Notre Dame by three points very late in regulation the Cardinals made back-to-back key mistakes to help the Fighting Irish rally for a 67-65 double-overtime victory in front of 22,687 at the KFC Yum! Center.
It was the second straight Big East home loss for the Cards (13-3, 1-2), who are ranked No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today rankings and No. 11 in The Associated Press poll.
"We gave the game away today," senior guard Chris Smith said.
It was the seventh time in the last 11 meetings, and the fourth in a row, that these two have played at least one extra 5-minute session, but it didn't look like it was heading that way after Kyle Kuric knocked down a three-pointer – that gave Louisville a 47-40 lead – with 5:05 to play.
The Cards, though, went without a field goal for the remainder of regulation as the Fighting Irish outscored them 10-3 down the stretch.
Chane Behanan's two free throws with 52 seconds left put UofL ahead 50-47, but on Notre Dame's ensuing possession Eric Atkins hit a three-pointer to tie the game with 27 seconds to play.
The Cards' subsequent possession ended in an offensive foul by Peyton Siva with one second left.
"Coming out with a three-point lead we wanted to do two things, not let them attempt the three and on offense do anything but commit an offensive foul," a none-too-happy UofL coach Rick Pitino said. "We did both things. We gave up a three and we knocked a guy over, those were the two instructions (of what not to do). So that's disappointing."
Both teams had their chances in the overtimes and although UofL made four field goals to the Fighting Irish's three, Notre Dame was more proficient at the free throw line, making 10 of 13 (76.9 percent) in the extra 10 minutes while the Cards were 7 for 12 (58.3 percent).
Atkins' pull-up jumper in the lane with 15 seconds left in the second OT put Notre Dame (10-6, 2-1) ahead for good. Then his two free throws with 4.9 seconds to play, after Siva's shot was turned away on the other end, gave the Fighting Irish a four-point lead. Russ Smith missed a long three-pointer and Rakeem Buckles put it in before the buzzer to account for the final margin.
"We lost this game mentally and at the free throw line," Pitino said.
Notre Dame, which was picked to finish ninth in the Big East preseason poll and came in off a 71-55 loss at Cincinnati on Wednesday, led 15-13 mdiway through the first half thanks in part to the absence of Gorgui Dieng for part of that time. The UofL sophomore picked up his second foul 6:42 into the game and sat out the rest of the first half.
The Cards, though, used an 8-0 run to take the lead. It started with a jumper by Buckles and was followed by a dunk by Chris Smith, a steal and layup by Kuric and a basket by Behanan.
Louisville led 28-24 at halftime thanks to Buckles' two free throws 1.9 seconds before intermission.
The start of the second half was back-and-forth before the Cards used a 7-0 run – thanks to a three-point play by Kuric and back-to-back baskets by Dieng – to take a 39-35 lead with 10 minutes to play. Russ Smith's three-pointer almost two minutes later pushed that advantage to six (42-36).
The Cards' cushion reached seven on Kuric's aforementioned three just before the 5-minute mark.
It was pretty much all downhill for UofL from there.
In the first overtime the Cards were down by three points late before Siva scored on a layup then Kuric hit 2 of 3 free throws, after being fouled on a three-point shot, with 10.6 seconds to play.
However Atkins hit 1 of 2 free throws with 3 seconds left, after being fouled by Buckles, to send the game to a second overtime.
The second OT started off on a sour note for the Cards when Russ Smith picked up his fourth foul on a reach-in against Jerian Grant, who hit 1 of 2 free throws to give the Fighting Irish a 59-58 lead.
"Russ's reach at the end of the game was bizarre to say the least," Pitino said.
The sophomore who had sparked the Cards of late, averaging 18.9 points over his previous seven games, finished with just three points on 1 of 9 shooting in 26 minutes.
"You know anybody can have an off night, but you have to play defense," Pitino said. "Four or five times during the game I told him to stay solid. You just try to make the big play because you're not shooting well and you can't do that. You have to stay solid in your stance. He learned a valuable lesson."
UofL took a 63-61 lead on two free throws from Kuric with 1:25 to play in the second extra session, but Atkins' up-and-under move tied it with 59 seconds left.
Buckles turned the ball over on the Cards' ensuing possession, before Atkins' jumper gave Notre Dame the lead.
UofL had one opportunity to tie, but Siva's shot in a clogged-up lane was knocked way and Atkins came away with the ball.
"Maybe we would've run something for Russ coming off a screen (then), but he wasn't having a good night so we put it in Peyton's hands," Pitino said.
Siva scored 15 points and had seven assists in the Cards' 83-77 overtime win over the Fighting Irish in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament last season, but this time around the junior point guard tallied eight points and five assists, but he also had five turnovers.
"We were a little softer on the ball screen (this time around)," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We clogged the lane with it. Then in the second half and overtime we actually switched it. Then we had a big guy on him and played off him when he was going to hole. We don't care if he shoots a 12-footer because we don't think he wants to do that. We got great team defense, we had active hands and we got some turnovers. The lane was clogged and that helped us. We did not do a good job at that in New York and he had a field day against us."
"Sometimes I made the right play, sometimes I didn't make the right play," said Siva, who is still bothered by a lingering ankle injury.
Kuric and Behanan both led Louisville with 17 points and 10 rebounds. It was a career-high effort on the boards for Kuric, whom Pitino has been critical of recently for his effort on the glass. Dieng, who fouled out with 2:01 to play in the first overtime, added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Louisville, which out-rebounded the Fighting Irish 42-40, shot 42.3 percent (22 for 52) from the field for the game but made just 17 of 27 free throws (63 percent). Meanwhile Notre Dame shot only 31.7 percent (20 of 63) from the field against the Cards, who came in fourth nationally in field goal percentage defense (35.9), put made 22 of 29 free throws (75.9 percent). The Fighting Irish, who entered No. 4 in the country in turnovers per game (only 9.9), had 11 in 50 minutes of basketball.
"They average nine turnovers a game, nobody turns them over because they are an excellent passing team, so we didn't mind that," Pitino said. "Where we broke down was on the pick and rolls, they beat us on the switch. (But) it's okay because Rak is coming off an ACL (injury) and he did the best he could in that situation."
The Cards will now try to make the best of their current situation. They play at Providence at 7 p.m. Tuesday night before hosting DePaul at 4 p.m. next Saturday.
"We're in bad shape because we've lost two at home," Pitino said. "We have been there before in past year, we just have to go out and battle the rest of the way."
"We've just got to win on the road and take care of business at home," Chris Smith said.