In case you missed it, the honorable mentions in the series can be found here.
#10. Win over Louisville at the YUM! Center
Late in the year, the Irish faced a familiar opponent from the years in the Big East. In a series filled with numerous overtime games, the 2015 edition featured much less drama. Notre Dame had already secured a double-bye going into the ACC Tournament, but a win in Louisville would lock up the 3 seed leading to an easier quarterfinal matchup. The Irish did just that beating Louisville 71-59. While All-ACC forward Montrzel Harrell dominated down low scoring 23 points, the combined force of Bonzie Colson and Demetrius Jackson combined for 38 points to lead the way for ND. The Irish led by 11 at halftime, but Louisville made a run to tie the game before the first media timeout as the Irish went cold from the field. Despite not making a field goal for almost 10 minutes in the second half, the Irish found a way to keep up with the Cardinals. A Bonzie Colson layup stopped the shooting drought to give ND a 48-47 lead at 10:32, and the Irish never gave the lead back. Colson scored 11 points down the stretch, and Jackson added nine to outscore all of Louisville over the last 10:30. On a night where Grant and Connaughton were a little bit cold, two of the young guns picked up the slack to knock off an Elite Eight team on the road.
#9. ACC-Big Ten win over Michigan State in OT
Notre Dame's first game against a marquee opponent looks even better in hindsight than it did at the time. Michigan State came into the game with two losses, but both were to top-10 opponents (Duke and Kansas), and were relatively close games. The Irish were 7-1 losing just a one point game to Providence, but had only played two games against tournament level opposition. Both teams were either on the edge of the top 25 or just outside it. What was expected to be a close game between evenly matched teams lived up to the hype. The game was an interesting clash of styles, and no one ever led by more than six points. The Spartans dominated the boards outrebounding ND 43-26 with an 18-8 edge on the offensive glass. The Irish were able to get to the line finishing 20/25 from the stripe compared to MSU's 5/9 performance. Ultimately, the Irish backcourt was the difference with Grant and Jackson combining for 49 points. Austin Torres was the unsung hero providing 19 minutes of solid defense and rebounding with Zach Auguste struggling inside. The Irish were able to get a huge stop with the game tied 67-67 in regulation, and probably should have won when Connaughton hit Grant with a fastball on the game's last possession. Grant lost the ball going up, but there was a lot of contact on the play. Ultimately, nothing was called, which sent the game to OT. The Irish jumped out to a five point lead in the overtime period, and held on behind solid free throw shooting from Pat, Jerian, and DJ. After the game, the #narrative was that this was a subpar Izzo team making the Irish victory seem less impressive than it was. Looking back after the season, the Irish can point to a victory over an eventual Final Four squad.
These two could have their own entries, but we ultimately decided to combine them because they both featured double digit comebacks and sandwiched a blowout win over Virginia Tech. The Miami win featured the emergence of the Irish small-ball lineup with Grant, Jackson, Connaughton, Vasturia, and Beacham playing together down the stretch. All five of the small ball players reached double figures as the Irish turned a 12 point second half deficit to a two point lead in less than five minutes. After starting slowly from deep, ND hit threes on four consecutive possessions to kick off the run. After gaining the lead midway through the second half, the Irish kept the heat on down the stretch, and cruised to a 75-70 win.
The game in Raleigh started about as bad as possible for the Irish. At one point BeeJay Anya finished three consecutive possessions with dunks to give the Pack an 18 point lead late in the first half. The Irish managed to stem the tide towards the end of the half, but they still went to the locker room trailing by 12. In the second half, the Irish turned up the heat on defense, started knocking down 3s, and took the lead before the second TV timeout. The game was neck-and-neck the rest of the way, and the Irish found themselves trailing by two with 16 seconds to go. Grant went to the hole, and missed, but Connaughton kept the possession alive for ND. He missed his putback attempt, but VJ Beacham was in position to tip-in the rebound tying the game for ND. An offensive foul on NC State's inbounds attempt sent the game to OT. The overtime period was similarly tense, but after Jackson went one of two from the line to extend the Irish lead to three, the Irish held on after Grant stuffed a tying three point attempt from Trevor Lacey. When all was said and done, the Irish took every punch from two teams in the top half of the ACC's, and came out victorious both time. There would be no questioning this team's heart going forward.
#7. Win in Chapel Hill over UNC
The win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill was huge for a few reasons. Most importantly, it was a road win over a top ACC opponent that the Irish would see near the top of the league standings for the rest of the season. Secondly, it was the first Irish road win over a traditional ACC power since joining the league. While Notre Dame knocked off Duke during the 2013/14 season at home, they didn't beat any top ACC teams in their own building. Coach Brey talked about getting the program back to where they were in the Big East, and the quickest way to do that (short of winning titles) is to beat established powers at their place. Lastly, ND showed they could get tough on defense down the stretch, and get stops when they needed them.
The Irish held a slim lead over the Heels for most of the game, but let a double digit second half lead evaporate down the stretch when two Kennedy Meeks free throws gave UNC a 70-69 lead. The Irish would get stops on UNC's next four offensive possessions, and a Zach Auguste tip-in with just over a minute to go would ultimately decide the game. Jerian Grant had his worst game of the season, fouling out after going 1/8 from the field and 0/4 from deep. Despite Grant's off night, the rest of the team picked up the slack and grinded out a road win over an ACC blueblood.