The #10/11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish struggled throughout their game at Clemson, but behind Jerian Grant and his 22 points, the Irish managed a 60-58 win. Much like recent games, ND fell behind early to the Tigers trailing by eight points early in the first half. Unlike recent games, however, the Irish managed to limit the damage and keep pace with the Tigers. With ND trailing by five and the last seconds of the half, Grant and Connaughton combined to give Grant an open look from deep to cut the lead to two.
The Irish took their first lead since 4-2 early in the half when Connaughton finished an and-1 just before the first media timeout. The rest of the half was a tight affair with neither team ever leading by more than four points. The biggest sequence of the half came just after the under four minute timeout after Grant drew a foul. With ND down four, the senior calmly sunk the two free throws, then got a steal at the other end. He couldn't finish the layup, but Demetrius Jackson hustled down the floor and was in the right place for a tip-in. The Irish defense got another stop, and Jackson scored again giving the Irish a two point lead. With the Irish in the lead, ND managed to get another stop on defense, and put the ball in Jerian's hands to try to ice the game. The POY candidate missed a jumper late in the shot clock, but Pat Connaughton grabbed the board and got it back to Grant giving the Irish a chance to run more clock. This time, with 47 seconds to go, Grant drained his jumper extending the lead to four. Clemson scored at the other end, and Jackson missed the front end of the one-and-one to give the Tigers another chance to tie or win the game. Clemson's final possession was a wild one, but it ultimately ended with a missed shot to tie the game, and another miss to win at the buzzer. With the narrow victory, ND moved to 22-4, and 10-3 in ACC play with just five games to go in the regular season.
Good Grant is Back
After a couple of sub-par games (by his standards), Jerian was back in a big way for ND. The senior finished with 22 points and 5 assists on 7/14 shooting while going a perfect 7/7 from the line. Grant was just 1/3 from deep, but his bomb at the first half buzzer was big in giving the Irish some momentum going into halftime. Jerian also made some nice defensive plays that led to easy buckets for the Irish. The senior also bounced back from missing a tough shot to extend the lead by draining a guarded jumper to give the Irish some breathing room. While the last game against Duke may have given the pole position in the POY race to Okafor, Grant is still in great position to pick up some hardware at the end of the year.
Less Auguste More Colson
After drawing some criticism here and elsewhere the last few games, Zach Auguste did little to change these opinions tonight at Clemson. While he's been criticized for being a bit of a black hole for the Irish offense, the junior seemed to pass up some easy shots around the rim. When he did pull the trigger, Auguste was just 1/6 shooting and missed his only free throw. Auguste also picked up a couple silly fouls in the first half. With the foul trouble, Auguste was limited to just 19 minutes, and Colson and Torres picking up the rest of the minutes inside. Bonzie scored both of his FG attempts, and secured a big rebound (before turning over) at the end of the game.
- The Irish dropped out of the Top 10 in the Coaches Poll (11), but stayed at 10 in the AP Poll. A rankings post will be coming later in the week.
- After the first half, it was nearly time to panic regarding the Irish defense. Clemson was shooting well over their season average both behind the three point line and from the field before the break. Clemson finished at just 42.9% from the field and 29.4% from three point range, however, which are both just slightly better than their season averages.
- VJ Beacham still seems stuck in a cold spell missing all three of his three point attempts. Hopefully the long time off before the next will help him find his stroke.
- While falling short of another double/double, Captain Pat Connaugton had another typical PC game. After a slow start, he finished with 14 points and 3/6 shooting from deep. His six rebounds were below his average, but he managed to grab the biggest board of the game extending a late ND possession. This allowed Grant another chance to extend the ND lead.
- Demetrius Jackson, despite missing a key late FT, was solid all night for the Irish. He finished with 11 points on 4/7 shooting and drained his only three point attempt. His line was similar to Vasturia's (7 points on 3/8 shooting), but both players combined for a silly TO in the first half that gave Clemson an easy bucket.
- While ND didn't look their best, it's tough to complain about a conference road win over an NCAA bubble team. The long break comes at a good time for the Irish as they don't play until next Tuesday when they host Wake Forest at the JACC.