It doesn’t matter if it’s at Purcell Pavilion, or N.C. State, the Consol Energy Center (now PPG Paints Arena) in Pittsburgh, the Verizon Center in Washington D.C., or the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, as it was Saturday.
In overtime, Notre Dame wins. If it’s a regular-season game, an ACC tournament game or an NCAA tournament game, in overtime, the Irish win.
Notre Dame added to its overtime lore Saturday in its 78-77 overtime victory against Pittsburgh when the Irish overcame late five-point deficits in regulation and overtime to claim their sixth straight extra-session victory.
That’s six in a row and 9-of-10 since the Steve Vasturia/V.J. Beachem-led senior class enrolled in the fall of 2013. It’s 12-of-13 dating back to before the senior class arrived.
Even in the dreadful 15-17 (6-12) opening campaign in the ACC in 2013-14, the Irish managed to win three-out-of-four overtime games.
“We do a lot of end-of-game stuff in practice,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey. “If you do it over and over again, you have enough guys that make a big shot or make a big pass or get a big defensive rebound in a simulated game situation.
“I believe that gives them some confidence, and then I really try to convince them that because we do them so much, we’re better than everybody at it. I try to give us a real psychological advantage.”
Brey described the scene Saturday after Vasturia’s two free throws sent the game into overtime.
“When we went into the huddle, I’m kind of smiling and they’re talking and I said, ‘Overtime, fellas. Our time. Here we go,’” Brey said. “I reminded them of our record in overtime, so there’s a little bit of a psychological advantage.”
It’s worked, from the 84-79 victory over Duke in last year’s ACC tournament in Washington, D.C. to the 67-64 triumph over Butler in the 2015 NCAA tournament in Pittsburgh.
“We don’t over-coach here,” Brey said. “In a scramble situation, I feel like we can think in chaos better than other teams because we have some really smart guys and we have pretty poised guys. (The win over Pittsburgh) was another example of it.’
Brey’s players echo his words.
“Since I’ve been here and we’ve gone into overtime, Coach Brey comes in (to the huddle) laughing and smiling,” said Vasturia, whose three-pointer off a sprawling pass from Matt Farrell with 2.7 seconds remaining lifted the Irish to victory over the Panthers Saturday.
“Maybe some other teams might not be as comfortable in those situations, but when you win a lot of close games, you build up that confidence. You get to play five more minutes. It’s free basketball for the fans and it’s a chance to keep competing. We’ve been good in those situations, and I think the game situations that we do in practice definitely help.”
Beachem, who has struggled with his shot lately but came up big late in the victory over the Panthers, also notes the practice time spent on end-game situations and the confidence that Brey has instilled in the team.
“We really practice those situations, whether it be a tie game or we’re trailing,” Beachem said. “We just have the belief that no matter what the situation we’re in, we can win the game. If we get an extra five minutes to do it, we especially feel like we can win it, no matter what’s going on or where we are.”
Junior Bonzie Colson, who scored 21 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the victory over Pittsburgh, can hear Brey’s confidence-boosting words in his head.
“It starts with Coach Brey who always says, ‘It’s our time. OT is our time to shine,’” Colson said. “He gives us that confidence that we can get the win. We were working on it in the first practice of the season.”
Of course, every team, every program practices such situations. Brey takes it to the next level.
“I have a lot of coaches ask me about that in the off-season,” Brey said. “We work on game situations probably as much or more than everybody. We probably do two a day.
“Today, we’re going to do an end-of-half situation because I thought we shot the ball too quick and didn’t wind the clock down at Pittsburgh, which gave them a little too much time for a bucket at the end. So we’ve got to review when we have a clock differential.”
Up next for the Irish Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion is the 12-2 and No. 9-ranked Louisville Cardinals, who are Notre Dame’s most frequent sparring partner in overtime.
From Jan. 12, 2009 through Notre Dame’s incredible 104-101 victory in five overtimes on Feb. 9, 2013, the Irish and Cardinals engaged in six extra-session games in an eight-game span with the Irish winning three times in overtime.
“I get in the frame of mind like I did before Pittsburgh,” Brey said. “Every game is going to come down to game situations. So embrace ‘em, let’s love ‘em and have fun with ‘em.”