"From there, I just thought we were going to win the game no matter what, after what he pulled off," Atkins said.
"The first thing was, I do not want to lose this game," Grant said. "After I made the first one, my confidence kept going. My teammates gave me the confidence. They said, Jerian, get the ball and go do something with it."
There would be so much more to it. So much more. Grant fouled out with two minutes left in the first overtime, leaving the Irish down two starters, and they muddled through a shot clock violation late as Louisville's Smith settled for an out-of-this-ZIP-code 3-pointer at the buzzer that rimmed out.
And on it went. Biedscheid saved Notre Dame in the second overtime, with Louisville missing twice on its final possession. Smith missed another potential game-winner in overtime No. 3. And then it was Sherman, Notre Dame's forgotten man, who scored four straight to end the fourth overtime after the Irish were down two scores inside of a minute left.
The 6-foot-11 transfer was to be the first big man off the bench for the Irish this year, a complement to Cooley. Eventually production woes begat confidence woes and Tom Knight and freshman Zach Auguste usurped his minutes. Sherman was left to extra conditioning sessions with Irish assistant Rod Balanis, anything to keep his touch honed in case of emergency.
"It's been frustrating, I won't lie to you," Sherman said. "But everybody on this team has a role. Tom's been stepping up and that's who we rode with. I wasn't upset about it. I was cheering for him just as hard as I was cheering for everybody else. That's just what our team does. Everybody who needs to play steps up."
In the fifth overtime, there was Atkins, a 60-minute man worked to the marrow, barreling into the lane for two key buckets.
He and Connaughton, who grinded through an ankle sprain suffered at the end of the first half to finish with 16 points and 14 rebounds in 56 minutes, hit one free throw apiece inside of 20 seconds to play. Everyone was then left to watch one more run by Smith, one more heave to the rim, one more moment with thousands of breaths caught in thousands of throats.
It missed, and the night had just begun.
Students flooded the court, met by Notre Dame players jet-propelled off the bench. The Irish came into the game seeking legitimacy, a team laying claim to greatness but so far failing to validate that. It was the last time a truly top-shelf team would visit Purcell Pavilion this year, and unlike the relatively sparse GameDay crowd, Notre Dame couldn't be a no-show.
"We wanted a win tonight for a statement, and because we kind of thought we needed it," Connaughton said.
Said Brey: "The one thing I told our team before we went out the last time, I said, this nucleus, when there's been hyped up games -- Syracuse last year, Kentucky earlier this year -- they've delivered on these stages, in this building, when there's a lot expected. I thought they did that. They just kept finding ways. Something like this you can certainly build on. We're going to use that to build our confidence and toughness and never feel we're out of it."
As the band played and students danced, Connaughton and Atkins found each other and embraced. They didn't let go, walking arm-in-arm at a deliberate pace back to the Irish locker room. After some intravenous fluids and ice packs, they each laughed and wondered if they'd have made it without the other.
At about 12:20 a.m. CT, Connaughton reemerged onto the court and met his parents on what had been the Irish's bench. He hugged his mother, Susan. There was little chatter. He was arguably too tired to talk. Connaughton began to leave when his mother grew concerned about how bundled up he was, telling her son, "You'll get a cold."
The sophomore paused for a moment, then continued his slow walk up the ramp and through the tunnel and toward the doors. What was one more thing to endure, on a night like this.