As we head into March Madness, I was thinking about some of the most exciting basketball games I’ve witnessed in person, and there’s one big one that stands out in my mind. In 2012, I had the opportunity to head back to Notre Dame for a weekend in January to witness the Notre Dame Fighting Irish face the No. 1 ranked Syracuse Orange. Notre Dame was not expected to win this one, but Notre Dame does have a history of knocking off top ranked teams at home, and I just had a feeling that this was going to be one for the ages.
The Irish came out big, going up 11-2 with just under three minutes off the clock. Pat Connaughton started it all off with a three-point shot, and Notre Dame never looked back. Starting with that 3-0 Irish lead, Notre Dame never let Syracuse get the lead the entire game. It was one of those games where we kept looking at each other and saying, “is this really happening?” Going in to the game, the Irish had eight losses, but they definitely came to play that snowy January day.
Even with the Irish team captain, Eric Atkins, having some foul troubles and sitting out of a good portion of the first half, the rest of the team took control and never let Syracuse run the high powered scoring game they were used to running. (Or course it helped that Syracuse’s starting center, “Fab Melo,” had to sit out due to academic issues, but that was neither here nor there.)
Notre Dame outperformed Syracuse in every aspect of the game. Notre Dame made 50% of their field goals and 50% of their three points, to Syracuse’s 34% and 30.4% respectively. Notre Dame had 17 turnovers to Syracuse’s 9, and Notre Dame had 39 rebounds to Syracuse’s 26. Jack Cooley was the leading Irish scorer of the night, with 17 points, 5-of-8 field goals, 7-of-10 free throws, and 10 rebounds (4 defensive and 4 offensive). Scott Martin and Jerian Grant were right behind him with 13 and 11 points each.
The Notre Dame Men’s Basketball squad was firing on all cylinders that night. With just over a minute left in the first half, the Irish were up by 18 (35-17 Notre Dame), and the Syracuse Orange had no idea what had hit them. With 5:18 remaining in the game, Syracuse was closing in on the Notre Dame lead, and the Irish were only up by eight points (50-42), when Cooley got a huge dunk which put the Irish up by 10. As the seconds ticked off the clock, with the Irish up by nine (67-58), Coach Brey most definitely had something to smile about.
It was a “green out” game, and all of the students were clad in their green t-shirts (or green body paint), and the scene of the student body rushing the court at the end of the game was a thing of beauty. Did we rush the court? Well of course we did. You don’t just sit by and watch after a game like that. It was a magical game, and one I’ll never forget.
Here are some video highlights from the game:
What is the most memorable Notre Dame basketball game you’ve attended?
Speaking of rushing the court ... here are a few of my photos of the post game mayhem.
Here I am with Jerian Grant ...
And the leprechaun ...
And the body paint crew ...
The Distraction Wheel (that was behind the basket where Syracuse was shooting) ...
Cheers & GO IRISH!