Beachem heroics cap gritty Irish comeback
Zach Klonsinski | Monday, January 26, 2015
No. 8 Notre Dame survived cold first-half shooting and staved off an upset bid by North Carolina State, 81-78, in overtime last night at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“I’m so proud of our group because it’s a real tough environment, didn’t get off to a good start, nothing really going too good for us, but that’s where this group has really great toughness and focus and togetherness,” Irish coach Mike Brey said in his post-game radio interview. “We just hung in there, and man, did we make big plays in crunch time.”
Sophomore forward V.J. Beachem tipped in an offensive rebound to tie the game at 71 with 1.8 seconds remaining in regulation, and his layup with exactly two minutes left in overtime put the Irish (19-2, 7-1 ACC) ahead for good against the Wolfpack (13-8, 4-4). The Fort Wayne, Indiana, product finished the game with 11 points and four rebounds.
“V.J. [Beachem] didn’t have a great night in Blacksburg, Virginia [on Thursday against Virginia Tech],” Brey said. “But tonight, he had a big night defending [Wolfpack redshirt senior guard Ralston Turner], certainly a huge tip-in there to put it into overtime.
“But you know he really is like a sixth starter for us. That’s how we look at him, and I knew he would bounce back tonight.”
Senior guard Jerian Grant also blocked Wolfpack redshirt junior guard Trevor Lacey’s 3-point attempt to tie the game with four seconds remaining in overtime, and Lacey was unable to get another shot off before time expired. Grant’s game-high 25 points led Notre Dame, which had five players in double-figure points. Grant also dished out four assists and snagged three rebounds.
“I thought Jerian Grant put on a clinic tonight on getting people open or scoring the ball,” Brey said.
Late in regulation, the Irish trailed 71-66 with 1:16 on the clock and a boisterous PNC Arena crowd screaming for another home upset like it saw when the Wolfpack shocked then-undefeated and current No. 5 Duke, 87-75, on Jan. 11. But Notre Dame scratched and clawed its way back from the brink to erase the deficit.
A Grant free throw cut the NC State lead to four, and the Irish forced a stop on the defensive end before six-foot-one sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson posted up inside and willed in a bucket to cut the lead to two with 18.7 seconds remaining.
After the Jackson bucket, Grant perfectly defended a Hail Mary inbounds pass by NC State, forcing a turnover and giving the Irish possession with 15 seconds to tie the game. A Grant attempt bounced off the rim but was corralled by senior guard Pat Connaughton, who forced up another shot through a double team that rattled around and out before Beachem’s heroics silenced PNC Arena.
“Pat and Jerian’s leadership and toughness, that’s what you saw tonight,” Brey said. “That’s the stuff that’s gotten us over the hump in close games. They are fearless, tough guys. …
“When we get to overtime, we feel it’s our time, and we did it again.”
With the win, the Irish moved to 19-10 all-time in overtime games under Brey, including 3-0 this season after earlier wins over Michigan State and Georgia Tech.
The Wolfpack led by as much as 18 in the first half as the Irish slogged through one of their worst offensive halves of the year, shooting just 37.5 percent from the field and 1-of-11 from beyond the 3-point arc. Notre Dame came into the game sporting a 52.6 shooting percentage and knocking down 40.5 percent of their attempts from long distance.
The Irish offense found its spark in the second half, however. Notre Dame used a 15-4 run over 3:45 to take its first lead of the night with 13:22 remaining in the second stanza on junior forward Zach Auguste’s lay-up. Auguste finished with a team-high 11 rebounds as well as 10 points as he recorded his first double-double since Dec. 6 against Fairleigh-Dickinson. Overall, the Irish won the rebounding battle, 43-34, including an 18-12 edge on the offensive glass.
Connaughton and Jackson each matched Beachem’s 11 points to round out the Irish scorers in double figures. Sophomore guard Steve Vasturia finished with nine points.
When the Irish next take to the court, they will have the chance to accomplish what no team has before: beat a Division-I men’s coach with 1,000 wins. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski became the first coach to reach the milestone yesterday by virtue of his team’s 77-68 win over St. John’s, but Notre Dame will try to avoid becoming win 1,001 when the matchup of top-10 teams tips off Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion at 7:30 p.m.