ACC Basketball

Irish steal one at Clemson

RICHARD SHIRO AP PHOTO

Hey, it’s not called “the luck of the Irish” for nothing. Down 60-58 with 23 seconds to go with the rock, the Tigers had three opportunities to walk away victorious. First, they smartly got the ball to Jaron Blossomgame, who was money nearly all night. He got isolated on Pat Connaughton, took it towards the bucket, but instead of pulling up for a clean jumper or try to back the smaller Connaughton down, he threw up a one handed, let’s call it a push. Whatever it was, it was a terrible shot and failed to connect.

Yet, the ball got knocked back and Clemson’s Rod Hall and Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia raced for the ball, Hall got there first, Vasturia may have gotten a finger on the ball, but he got all of Hall’s ankles, sending the Tigers’ point guard to the floor. Clemson still recovered and Demarcus Harrison was able to get a final shot up (a miss), but that should have been a foul called on the Irish, giving Hall a chance to tie with two free throws.

While that final sequence will be the highlight of the game, I’m giving Mike Brey the credit. Down 56-52, with around four minutes on the clock, he switched his defense to a zone. At that point, the Irish had played zone one time, just a couple of possessions ago and it threw Clemson for a loop. Well, the Tigers didn’t learn. As Notre Dame made up the points with guards Jerian Grant and Demetrius Jackson, Clemson turned it over, missed a three and turned it over again, apparently seeing a 2-3 zone for the first time in their lives. Suddenly, they were down four before Rod Hall ran through the Irish D for a layup with :37 to go.

The game was tight throughout, with no team able to build any significant momentum, swapping the lead the entire second half. The Tigers shot it well through stretches and dominated the glass (38-26, including 13 offensive rebounds), but struggled to hold on to the ball and the Irish took advantage, scoring 17 points off of the Tigers’ 11 turnovers, compared to Clemson, who scored just seven points off of Notre Dame’s eight turnovers.

While Blossongame led all Clemson scorers with 17, Damarcus Harrison rediscovered his stroke, scoring 15, nailing three from deep. Jerian Grant led all scorers with 22, including a second-chance runner in the final minute to give the Irish the lead for good (note to opponents: don’t give Grant the ball twice so he can shoot the exact same shot from the exact same elbow).

For the Irish, this counts as a solid road win, as they improve to 22-4 on the season. At 10-3, they are now 1.5 games back of Virginia for first, one game up on Duke and North Carolina for second.

As for Clemson, it’s now danger time. They just got done playing (probably) two tournament teams and in both cases, lost. This team came into the game ranked 74th in the RPI with just one win over anyone in the top-50 (Arkansas), going 1-4 overall. The worst part is, the opportunities to get a signature win are dwindling. They do have Duke and the re-match with Notre Dame on the schedule, but both those will be on the road.

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