INDIANAPOLIS, DEC. 5 -- More often than not, when an extravaganza is given a lengthy buildup, the fun ends when the game begins. Check out the history of the Super Bowl.

But today, when 43,601 fans poured into the Hoosier Dome for the first, "Big Four," doubleheader, the event lived up to its billing -- and more. On any other day, David Rivers' 32 points in Notre Dame's impressive 69-54 victory over Louisville would have been memorable. But after Kentucky and Indiana hammered one another for 40 minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime, the opener was all but forgotten.

The second-ranked Wildcats escaped with an 82-76 victory because the hero of Indiana's national championship last March -- Keith Smart -- played the goat in overtime and because Kentucky's goat for much of the day -- Rex Chapman -- turned hero during the last two minutes.

Chapman, after missing 12 of 17 shots in regulation, nailed a three-pointer with 1:48 left in overtime to put Kentucky (3-0) ahead, 76-75, and the Hoosiers (2-1) never caught up. "That was the shot that put them over the top," Indiana Coach Bobby Knight said. "We had other chances, but we couldn't take advantage."

Smart had the best chances during those frantic last moments for the Hoosiers. He went to the line to shoot a one-and-one with 1:32 left and missed. Then, after Steve Eyl, whose defense made Chapman miserable most of the day, had stolen the ball from him with Kentucky trying to kill some time, Smart tried to start a drive from the top of the key.

But with Ed Davender pressuring him, Smart slipped, dribbled the ball off his leg and with Chapman's help, the ball came loose. Chapman picked it up and spotted Richard Madison open for his pass. When Madison dunked it for an 80-76 lead with 33 seconds on the clock, a memorable game had at last been decided.

"Rex's three-point shot was the kind I talk about in clinics," Kentucky Coach Eddie Sutton said. "It was one of those, 'Oh no . . . great shot Rex,' shots. He's a thoroughbred and he's got confidence when he takes that shot which is why he can make them."

Chapman finished with 20 points, but he had ample aid from his teammates. His running mate at guard, Davender, was the dominant player during the middle part of the game and finished with 22 points and five assists. Forward Cedric Jenkins didn't miss a shot -- five for five from the field and four for four from the line -- and finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Center Rob Lock had 14 points and eight rebounds.

Indiana's list of key contributors was almost as long. Rick Calloway, in Knight's doghouse all week, had 26 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out in overtime. Center Dean Garrett shot as poorly as Chapman -- eight for 24 but still had 20 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. And freshman Jay Edwards, although scoring only six points, hit a soft baseline jumper at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

"If you look at the game, our two best offensive players {Garrett and Smart} go 10 for 33," said Knight whose fifth-ranked team lost in this city for the first time in 22 games. "I think you could say that was our biggest problem. Smart simply didn't play very well. We were fortunate Calloway played so well, especially since we weren't sure if he was going to start."

Players often have to take a number to gain admittance to Knight's doghouse, especially in December. But that is especially true in Smart's case. Knight has hounded him all fall, once taking the entire team into the locker room so the other players could tell Smart how bad he was.

Smart has struggled trying to adjust to Steve Alford's role as the primary shooter and that was evident today. He was two for nine from the field, turned the ball over six times and looked uncomfortable. How Smart or any of the Hoosiers felt about the loss was impossible to know since the locker room emptied as soon as the door opened.

Words weren't really needed from the players after this one, though. The game had everything one could want: a Final Four atmosphere; Final Four intensity, and emotions that seemed to swing with every possession.

"I've never played in a game like that in my life," Lock said. "It was draining physically but even more so emotionally. I think, by the end, the guys on the bench were as tired as the guys on the floor."

These two games here could not have been more different. In the opener, Louisville (0-1) looked languid from the start, giving up easy shots from the beginning to the Irish (1-1). A 13-1 spree during which Rivers scored 11 points made it 33-21 late in the first half and Notre Dame coasted from there.

"We were dropping passes out of bounds when we were wide open," Cardinals Coach Denny Crum said. "I've seen that happen in Hawaii when you're adjusting to a time change, but not like this. We were just basket cases out there."

Actually, non-basket cases would be more like it. The Cardinals were zero for 14 shooting on three pointers, got a five-for-20 performance from their guards and, without Pervis Ellison's 10 for 14 (23 points) shot 13 for 48 from the field. That play, combined with Rivers' brilliance, was all Notre Dame needed.

But it was all mere warmup for what came next. In fact, the biggest cheer from the Notre Dame section all day came with 16 minutes left in Indiana-Kentucky when Tim Brown's Heisman Trophy victory was announced. By then, the Hoosiers and Wildcats had pounded each other into near-submission. No one, neither the Hoosiers nor Wildcats, ever led by more than six points. There were 16 ties and enough momentum changes to fill a cliche book.

Kentucky led, 57-51, with 8:03, but Indiana clawed back to trail, 63-62, on a Calloway jumper with 4:40 left. From there, every possession seemed decisive. Chapman made it 65-62, Calloway hit a free throw for 65-63, but Chapman hit again -- when Smart got lost on a screen and drew a quick hook from Knight -- for 67-63 with 1:50 left.

Indiana came back again, tying the game at 67 on two Joe Hillman free throws with 57 seconds to go. Lock hit two foul shots to make it 69-67 10 seconds later and when Garrett turned the ball over and Chapman hit twice from the line, it was 71-67 and looked over. But it wasn't. Garrett made it 71-69 with nine seconds left and Indiana immediately fouled Lock.

Here, in the din, he missed. The Hoosiers rebounded, Calloway raced downcourt and Jenkins blocked his shot. But it went right to Edwards, who tied the game at the buzzer while Sutton screamed to no avail for a charge on Calloway.Box scores, Page C11