When it comes time to relive the longest game played in Notre Dame men’s basketball history, senior power forward Zach Auguste remains the last man standing.
Following four much-needed days away from Atlantic Coast Conference basketball, Notre Dame (17-7 overall; 8-4 ACC) returns to league play Saturday against No. 13 Louisville (19-5; 8-3) at sold-out Purcell Pavilion. Anytime the teams’ paths cross, it’s impossible to talk about what might happen between the Cardinals and the Irish without talking about what has happened.
Overtimes …. So many overtimes. At one time, the teams played four in a row and five of six games in overtime.
It was three years ago Tuesday – Feb. 9, 2013 - that No. 25 Notre Dame played host to No. 11 Louisville in an ESPN primetime showdown. The game tipped late Saturday night and ended early Sunday morning, a game the Irish won 104-101 in five overtimes.
Then a freshman with a different hair style (no gold highlights) and a different number (2), Auguste started what would become the longest regular-season game in Big East history on the bench. Had foul trouble not cost the Irish starters Jack Cooley and Tom Knight – both eventually fouled out – Auguste might not have ever moved from his seat.
“The blue squad (reserves) had to finish the game,” Auguste said.
Long before that, everything got crazy. Really crazy. Like guard Jerian Grant scoring 12 points in 29 seconds to force overtime. Like Garrick Sherman coming off the bench to go for 17 points in 22 minutes. It was big moment after big moment after big moment.
With Cooley and Knight disqualified, coach Mike Brey had no choice but to play Auguste for a good chunk of the second half and each additional five-minute overtime session. When it had finally ended, Auguste scored eight points, including a big basket in the fifth overtime, with three rebounds. He played 36 minutes, then a career high.
Auguste remains the only player left on the Irish roster who logged meaningful minutes that memorable night.
“Man, it was a great vibe,” Auguste recalled before practice Thursday. “It was just fun to be out there with my brothers. It just kept going.
“Every time we thought the game was over and we tried to get a win, it was on to the next one and then the next one and we finally got the win.”
Auguste, who also eventually fouled out, still remembers looking up at the red numbers on the digital clock that hangs high above the court across from the Irish bench and trying to comprehend that midnight had come and gone and nothing had been decided.
The game finally ended at 12:36 a.m.
“It was really late,” he said. “It was fun for us.”
Back to the Bend
His first year of professional basketball has been spent mostly watching and waiting for a call that seldom comes.
With a chance to get away from it and get to somewhere warm and carefree and relaxing while the NBA All-Star weekend unfolds in Toronto, former Notre Dame forward Pat Connaughton knew exactly where he wanted to go. Where he needed to go.
The Portland Trail Blazers rookie was headed back to Notre Dame on Thursday. He planned the trip with close friend and former teammate Jerian Grant, also a rookie in the NBA with the New York Knicks.
If Connaughton was going, Grant was going. Had to.
“I told him he didn’t have a choice,” Connaughton told the Tribune in a text message. “We were going back.”
The two former Irish aren’t alone. Guard Eric Atkins also is expected in town to watch good friend Damion Lee and Louisville. Former Irish guard Chris Thomas plans to drive up from his home in Indianapolis. Former guard David Rivers is expected in from in Florida.
Former Irish Tory Jackson and Knight attended the North Carolina game, while small forward David Graves was on campus last month during Troy Murphy’s induction into the Ring of Honor.
It’s been a run of who’s who of reunions and returns, which is just fine by Brey, who also spent time on the phone earlier in the week with former Irish standout Kelly Tripucka.
“It makes you feel like you have a program where they had a good experience,” he said. “I want those former guys to be able to talk about their old place in positive tones. If they didn’t have a good experience, guys aren’t coming back.
“They’re proud of the place.”
Connanughton and Grant were expected back for the first time since last year’s team received their ACC Championship rings during the September weekend of the Texas football game. They’re also back for the first time since the NBA regular season commenced. Each has learned some hard lessons about being rookies. Like, they're rookies.
“They’re out there searching; trying to figure it out,’ Brey said. “They need to come back and get some good, positive karma from South Bend.”
Senior forward A.J. Burgett practiced Thursday for the first time since suffering a sprained left ankle on the eve of Notre Dame’s victory over then-No. 2 North Carolina.
Still in the starting lineup at the time of the injury, Burgett sat out the wins over North Carolina and Monday at Clemson because of the injury. He’s expected to be available Saturday, but will come off the bench as Brey rides a starting lineup featuring sophomore forward Bonzie Colson in his spot.
Burgett sprained the ankle late in the final practice before the Carolina game after he went up for a rebound and landed on Auguste’s foot.
“It’s still colorful, but I’m good to go,” Burgett said.
Colson may be the starter and play major minutes, but Brey figures to get to Burgett somewhere early in a rotation that includes freshmen Rex Pflueger and Matt Ryan.
“He gives us a lift,” Brey said of Burgett.
Had circumstances been a bit different, guard Damion Lee might have been in a Notre Dame uniform for Saturday’s game instead of coming to town as the leading scorer (16.7) for Louisville.
A graduate transfer who scored 1,538 points during a four-year career at Drexel, the Baltimore native Lee is close friends with former Irish point guard and three-year team captain Eric Atkins, who calls Columbia, Md., home. When Lee was looking for a place to play his final year and play right away, he looked a little at Notre Dame because of his friendship with Atkins.
With guards Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia and swingman V.J. Beachem entering their junior years and all expected to play major minutes, adding Lee just wasn’t going to add up.
“We did think about it a little bit; he had kind of reached out a little bit through Eric,” Brey said. “It almost feels like he was in our program; he used to spend so much time out here with Eric hanging out.”
Lee landed at Louisville, which was a perfect fit. Lee and fellow graduate transfer Trey Lewis (Cleveland State), were named team captains long before they played a single game for coach Rick Pitino. Didn’t matter. This is their team.
Like his buddy Atkins did with the Irish, the 6-foot-6, 210-pound Lee wears No. 0.
“I love him,” Brey said. “He’s a heck of a talent and having a great year.”