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Men’s Basketball

Irish keep pace atop ACC standings with impressive win at Clemson

| Monday, February 14, 2022

Notre Dame kept pace with Duke, who had won earlier in the day, atop the ACC standings with an impressive 76-61 road win over Clemson Saturday night. Freshman guard Blake Wesley scored 18 points in the first nine minutes of the contest and senior guard Dane Goodwin scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half to lead the Irish. Notre Dame has won four in a row and 14 of their last 16 games. 

It was a conference-leading sixth win on the road for the Irish and the seventh game in a row in which they have held their opponents under 65 points. Head coach Mike Brey credited the defense as a big part of the victory.

“We never let them get going from the three-point line, which was a goal,” he said. “Our zone helped us.”

Brey highlighted limiting three-pointers and not fouling as reasons for his team’s defensive success. Clemson was 5-18 from beyond the arc and took just five free throws.

“If you can keep people off the foul line, and keep it at five or six threes, how do you get to 70 [points]?” Brey asked. 

Notre Dame fouls the least of any major-conference team and limits opponents to just 32.3% from beyond the arc on the season. 

Leading scorer PJ Hall led Clemson by 19 points. Ultimately, he didn’t receive much help from the rest of the offense. The Tigers were missing numerous players, including David Collins. Collins was suspended from the contest after picking up a flagrant foul 2 against Duke on Thursday. A flagrant foul 2 involves unsportsmanlike conduct that is extreme in nature. This includes when a player swings an elbow excessively and makes contact above the shoulders. It was Clemson’s third game in five days when Collins committed the foul. 

Wesley could not miss early for the Irish. He made his first six attempts from the field, including four three-pointers. From there, the Irish built a 28-11 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

“The young guy is special,” Brey said of Wesley. “He jumpstarted us, and when you have a special one, you kind of let him go.” 

Wesley finished with a game-high 21 points. The Irish as a team shot 52.7% from the field and 54.2% from beyond the arc.

“We were really methodical offensively, it’s a group that’s played together a lot and you can really see it,” Brey said. 

After building a big early lead, the Irish kept Clemson at arm’s length throughout the game. Every time the Tigers began to make a run and cut the deficit to single digits, Notre Dame had an answer.

“Every time their crowd wanted to get into it, we had a mature, assassin-like possession,” Brey said. 

In the second half, as Wesley cooled off, the Irish turned to Goodwin, and he scored all over the court to help keep the Irish lead intact. His three-pointer with 14 minutes left gave the Irish a sixteen-point lead. 

Senior guard Cormac Ryan added 13 and 6 rebounds for the Irish. Nate Laszewski, who had missed the previous game with a leg injury, did not start but played 16 minutes off the bench.

“He just gutted it out,” Brey said of Laszewski. “He’s sore as heck, but he gave us some minutes just to help us.”

The Irish return home to face Boston College on Wednesday. They will seek to continue to strengthen their NCAA tournament resume. The game tips off at 7 p.m. from Purcell Pavilion. 

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