1. One positive thing before the negatives: OK, lets take a positive first. Chane Behanan and Kevin Ware gave the Cardinals a huge boost tonight. Behanan looked like the March Behanan from last season, finishing with a career-high 30 points and 14 rebounds in 56 minutes during the loss. He hit a few free throws, was taking the ball inside and I don't recall many spin moves. He still made a few bad plays – stepping out of bounds on the pass in the first OT – but it was a very positive sign to see him play like he did in this game. The same goes for Kevin Ware. He played 32 minutes in his third game after the suspension and finished with eight points, four assists and four rebounds. He's starting to get it and could see more minutes if Russ Smith continues his struggles.
2. OK, now for the bad: I would say start off with the really bad but lets start with the final 47 seconds of regulation. It looked like the Cardinals had the game put away when Jerian Grant exploded for 12 points. The first three was not too tough a shot but the second was a deep, deep three-pointer and the third one had a hand in his face. And then with 16 seconds left Grant drove to the basket and Wayne Blackshear tried to draw a change but was instead called for a block. Grant made the bucket and went to the line and tied the game at 68 with his free throw. Yes, the Cardinals should have won the game – Gorgui Dieng missed two free throws that would have extended the lead – but give Grant credit for making some big-time plays down the stretch to even force the first overtime.
3. The last-second chances: If you give a team enough chances to win, well they're probably going to get a win. And U of L gave Notre Dame so many chances. The Cardinals had the ball four times in overtime with the last shot and a chance to win. But none of the four times could the Cardinals convert. It wasn't the only mistakes the team made in the overtimes but it sure wasn't pretty. In the first OT, Russ Smith was casually dribbling the ball out near mid court for about 10 seconds before launching a 25-foot three-pointer at the buzzer. He took a bad drive and had a missed layup to end the second OT and he failed to get off a runner in time to end the third OT and then had a layup that wasn't even close to end the fourth OT. I know some will say, "At least he got a shot off," referring to Peyton Siva trying to go to Gorgui Dieng at the end of regulation but losing the ball. But it was still a bad time for Russdiculous to return. He was 4 of 19 from the field and was struggling the entire night. Not sure what player I want taking the final shot anymore but after the first two it sure wasn't Russ.
4. So many mental mistakes: It was an understatement when U of L coach Rick Pitino said his team made "a bunch" of mental mistakes. It was enough to fill an entire season in one game. Many will point to Pitino not calling timeout at the end of three of the OTs as a big-time fail. I would say the end of the first when he saw Smith just out there dribbling and couldn't get him to penetrate would have been a nice time for a timeout. Still wouldn't haven gotten a great shot but would have been better than a jacked-up 25-footer. But there are plenty of mistakes in the final part of the game, starting with a Peyton Siva of last year move. With 1:11 left, Siva fell down trying to get the inbounds pass and Notre Dame scored an easy layup. And that started all the madness. Blackshear then tried to make a play but has to realize his team is up three and you don't want to give them a three-point play, which is what he did to tie the game. Smith made the bad decision to dribble the clock out in the first OT and then started too late on his drive in the second OT. Behanan missed a free throw in the third OT and perhaps the biggest mental error of the night comes in the fourth OT. With U of L up 93-91 and 26 seconds left, Smith leads a 3-on-1 fast break and takes it to the rim. He had Behanan open on the left and Ware wide-open on the right…or he could have dribbled it out and run some time off and Notre Dame would have fouled him – they tried to foul him at midcourt. Instead, he took the contested layup and missed it. Notre Dame then tied it and forced a fifth OT where Stephen Van Treese and Smith each missed one free throw and Montrezl Harrell missed two – including an airball on the second. Smith was 13 of 16 from the line, while the rest of the team finished 17 of 32. There were just too many mistakes, too many mental errors and too many chances.
5. A few numbers from the instant classic: The lead changed hands 26 times and the score was tied 16 times. . . . In 65 minutes, the two teams combined to commit only 29 turnovers. U of L had 14. . . . Garrick Sherman was a killer. He had not played in regulation but finished with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and six rebounds. . . . Eight players fouled out in the game. . . . Notre Dame went over 10 minutes without scoring a field goal until the final minute and a half of regulation. . . . The game features 157 field-goal attempts, 100 rebounds (50 apiece), 66 fouls and 205 points. It lasted for three hours and 36 minutes.