Garrick Sherman contests a shot by Luke Hancock in the fifth overtime (USA Today Sports Images)Had Notre Dame not managed to force overtime against Louisville with an unfathomable last-minute comeback, Garrick Sherman's line in Saturday night's box score would have merely read DNP-Coach's Decision.
Instead the seldom-used big man became the most unlikely hero of the longest game in Notre Dame history and one of the most unforgettable games of this college basketball season.
Despite not shedding his warmups once during regulation, Sherman entered the game at the start of the first overtime after top big men Jack Cooley and Tom Knight fouled out at the end of the second half. Sherman played so well, he hardly left the court thereafter, scoring 17 points and grabbing six rebounds to propel the Irish to a 104-101 victory in five overtimes.
"I had to deliver. There wasn't any choice," Sherman told ESPN's Samantha Ponder after the game. "I'd been sitting a little bit, but I got out on the floor and I tried to step up for my team."
Few would have believed Sherman would play such a pivotal role in an upset considering the limited minutes the Michigan State transfer had received recently.
Once Notre Dame's top interior reserve during November and December, Sherman lost his spot in the rotation to Knight after an 0-for-4 performance from the field in a Jan. 15 loss to St. John's. In four of the Irish's six games since then, Sherman never even got off the bench, surely a disappointment for a kid who left Michigan State after his sophomore year in 2011 in part because of inconsistent playing time.
It remains to be seen whether Sherman will be a bigger part of Notre Dame's rotation the rest of the season, but he certainly made a strong case Saturday night. Not only was he a vocal leader in the Notre Dame huddle during the overtimes, he used his fresh legs to his advantage on both ends of the floor.
He scored six of Notre Dame's eight points in the third overtime. He tallied six more in the fourth extra session including an acrobatic tip-in with five seconds left to force a fifth. And in the decisive overtime, he sank a key jump shot with 2:38 remaining to put the Irish back in front by a point.
After Sherman had celebrated with his teammates and the hundreds of students who stormed the floor after the final overtime, he still was at a loss for how to sum up his contribution to the victory.
"I really don't even know," he told Ponder. "It's something I'm still trying to digest."
There was one thing Sherman was certain of though: This wasn't just another win for a Notre Dame team that had been seeking a signature victory to legitimize itself as an upper-tier Big East team.
"Yeah, there's an asterisk next to this one," Sherman admitted. "This is a special win."
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