Clawing by the Tigers: Notre Dame rallies in final moments
Manuel De Jesus | Tuesday, February 10, 2015
No. 10 Notre Dame scored the tying and game-winning field goals against Clemson in the final minutes to come away with the 60-58 win at Littlejohn Coliseum on Tuesday.
The Irish (22-4, 10-3 ACC) started the matchup against the Tigers (14-10, 6-6 ACC) similar to the way their contest against Duke on Saturday began. After making the first two straight baskets, Clemson went on an 11-point run before Notre Dame was able to rally back and reduce the deficit to two points by the end of the first half.
Senior guard Jerian Grant led the charge for Notre Dame, scoring a team-high 22 points to go along with five assists and three steals. With 3:23 left in the game, Grant made a steal that led to sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson’s tip-shot to tie the game at 56. After another Jackson basket gave Notre Dame the lead, Grant drained a fade-away jumper with under a minute left to give the Irish the go-ahead score.
Senior guard captain Pat Connaughton added 14 points for the Irish along with three of Notre Dame’s six 3-pointers. Jackson also contributed 11 points.
“We lost our last two on the road, so to get a road win like this is big time in the ACC,” Grant said.
Coming into the game, Clemson had one of the best defenses in the ACC, sitting in the top three in the conference in overall scoring defense. Although they held Notre Dame to just 43 percent shooting from the floor, the Irish showcased their own defensive abilities containing the Tigers to 43 percent shooting and forced them to turn the ball over 11 times. Clemson’s 58 points were the fewest Notre Dame has ever allowed in an ACC matchup.
“They hit shots and they came to play today,” Grant said. “We had to pick our defense up and we did it in the last four minutes.”
Sophomore forward Jaron Blossomgame led the Tigers with 17 points and 14 boards, which helped keep the Tigers in the lead for almost 18 minutes. However, in the last 5:45 of the second half, Notre Dame allowed just one field goal.
Although Clemson isn’t a team of the same caliber as No. 4 Duke, who Notre Dame fell to on Saturday, Grant said a win on the road is always important regardless of who the opponent is.
“Getting a road win in the ACC is tough no matter what,” Grant said. “To come in here on the road after losing like that [to Duke] is big time for us.”
The win for Grant means a little bit more for him because of the family ties he has with Clemson, he said. His older brother Jerai Grant played for Clemson from 2007-2011, his father Harvey Grant played for Clemson for a year before transferring to Oklahoma and his uncle Horace Grant is a member of Clemson’s Hall of Fame.
“I think it meant more,” Grant said. ”Obviously with my family, I wanted to perform pretty well.”
Notre Dame has now improved to 10-3 in conference play, which makes it the first ACC team with 10 conference wins. Before the game, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi placed Notre Dame as a four-seed in his Bracketology. With just five games left in the regular season, Notre Dame is still in contention for an ACC regular season title sitting two games behind No. 2 Virginia, which holds a 9-1 ACC record.
Notre Dame will take a short break before hosting Wake Forest, who are No. 12 in the ACC standings, on Feb. 17.