With all the quality basketball Notre Dame has played in working its way up to the No. 8 spot in this week’s Associated Press poll, “one of those nights” is always lurking around the corner.
“One of those nights” only lasted for about 16-and-a-half minutes.
After falling behind by 18 points 16:25 into the game, the Irish (19-2, 7-1) turned the tables on North Carolina State (13-8, 4-4), out-scoring the Wolfpack 31-12 to take the lead, lose it, send it into overtime, and then claim an 81-78 victory.
The win lifts Notre Dame to 4-0 on the road in ACC play, adding to victories away from Purcell Pavilion over North Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech.
Notre Dame’s 19-2 start is its best since the 1973-74 squad opened 24-1.
Down 40-22 with 3:35 left in the first half, the Irish took the lead when Demetrius Jackson’s feed to Zach Auguste on the run gave the Irish a 53-52 lead with 13:20 remaining to cap a furious run over a 10:15 span.
The lead changed hands four times and the game was tied four times over the final 13 minutes of regulation. Yet after trailing by six with 5:31 remaining, Notre Dame scratched its way back on a three-pointer by Jerian Grant (25 points) with 1:48 left.
It was a five-point deficit again with 1:16 remaining, but a free throw by Grant, a basket by Jackson and V.J. Beachem’s tip-in of a Pat Connaughton miss with 1.8 seconds remaining tied the game at 71 to send it into overtime.
Notre Dame quickly fell behind, 76-73, in the extra session. But a driving basket by Beachem with exactly two minutes left in overtime gave the Irish a lead they would not relinquish, even after captain Pat Connaughton fouled out with 47.1 seconds remaining.
Jackson’s offensive rebound off a missed three-pointer by Grant led to one of two free throws and an 81-78 Irish lead. Trevor Lacey’s three-point at the buzzer – which likely would have been disallowed had it fallen – bounced away, and the Irish moved to 7-1 in conference play for the first time since the program joined the Big East in 1995-96.
In addition to Grant’s 25 points, four other Irish players scored in double figures, including Zach Auguste, who added 11 rebounds (five offensive, all in the first half) to go along with 10 points. Jackson and Beachem each tossed in 11. Connaughton finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
North Carolina State shot to an 18-point first-half lead on the basis of its 18-of-29 shooting from the field (62.1 percent). The Wolfpack had an incredible 13 assists in the first half with 20 points in the paint.
But Notre Dame limited the Wolfpack to 13-of-37 shooting (35.1 percent) over the final 20 minutes of regulation and the five-minute overtime. After struggling to contain the inside presence of Kyle Washington (12 points, six rebounds), Abdul-Malik Abu (eight points) and BeeJay Anya (eight points) throughout much of the first half, Notre Dame clamped down to out-score North Carolina State, 51-36, over the final 25 minutes.
Cody Martin scored a career-high 10 points for the Wolfpack. His twin brother Caleb tossed in 12 points off the bench. Lacey – a transfer from Alabama – finished with 13. Washington had 12 and Ralston Turner tallied 11.
After converting just 1-of-11 from three-point range in the first half, Notre Dame was 8-of-17 in the second half.
On Wednesday, Jan. 28, Notre Dame hosts No. 5 Duke (17-2, 4-2), which earlier in the day celebrated Mike Krzyzewski’s 1000th victory as a college head coach with a 77-68 conquest of St. John’s.