• Game 24: Notre Dame (16-7; 7-4) @ Clemson (14-9; 7-4)
• Date: Feb. 8, 2016
• Place: Greenville, S.C.
• Time: 9:00 p.m. ET
• TV: ESPNU
• Opponent Nickname: Tigers
• Head coach: Brad Brownell (270-167; 104-82 at Clemson)
• Conference: ACC
• Location: Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, S.C.
• 2014-15 record: (16-15; 8-10)
No, not the Irish, though that moniker applies in South Bend as well.
Clemson and Notre Dame are joined by eight other ACC teams with records above .500 and the Tigers have beaten five of them: Louisville, Miami, Pittsburgh, Duke, and Florida State, losing only to North Carolina – in six such opportunities to date.
Opportunity No. 7 knocks tonight as fellow 7-4 and tied for fifth-place Notre Dame travels to the Tigers home away from home, the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenvillle, S.C. (Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum is under renovation). Head coach Brad Brownell’s bunch as adapted well to their new surroundings, winning 11 of 13 to date.
Clemson returns home after a three-game road trip that included a pair of defeats, most recently a 60-57 loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday. Tonight’s game marks the sixth straight in which Notre Dame’s opponent is coming off a conference loss. The Irish are 3-2 in that span.
MEET THE TIGERS
You may have done so already, at least if you recall last February’s 60-58 Notre Dame victory at Clemson, a game in which four of the Tigers five starters that evening will reprise those roles tonight against the Irish.
-- Junior forward Jaron Blossomgame leads the Tigers in scoring and rebounding for the second straight season. Blossomgame, who hit for 17 points and 14 boards in last year’s meeting between the teams, scores at 16.8 ppg. clip (hitting better than 50 percent of his offerings) while collecting 7.1 rebounds and chipping in 1.5 blocks per contest. He was held to 8 points on Saturday in Blacksburg after scoring 22 or more in five straight.
Look for a bounce-back effort tonight from the Tigers veteran.
-- Tigers big man Landry Nnoko is coming off a 17-point, 12-rebound, 8 (Eight!) blocked shot performance Saturday. The 6’10” 255-pound senior will make life difficult inside for Irish senior Zach Auguste (more on Auguste below).
-- Six-foot-eight sophomore forward Donte Grantham has a combined 26 points in his last two outings with 15 coming courtesy the charity stripe. An 88 percent free throw shooter on the season, Grantham has been attacking to earn trips to the line, hitting 20 of 21 over the last four contest and 26 of his last 27 overall.
-- Senior Jordan Roper and junior Avry Holmes comprise the Tigers backcourt. Roper has hit for double digits in four straight adding 20 assists in the span while Holmes, a San Francisco transfer, has averaged 12 points per game in seven league wins but has accounted for just nine total points in Clemson’s last three losses, despite logging a combined 80 minutes of court time.
Notre Dame has dropped two straight away from home after consecutive road victories to begin ACC play. Worse, the Irish haven’t been within shouting distance of any foe en route to a 2-3 road mark in conference action.
-- The aforementioned Zach Auguste has found it particularly tough in road losses, scoring a combine 21 points in defeats at Virginia, Syracuse, and Miami, managing an aggregate two points (two!) with any of the losses still in doubt. Auguste is coming off a quality outing in which he put up 15 points and 10 boards vs. North Carolina’s imposing front line.
-- Irish junior Demetrius Jackson has struggled from the field since returning from a one-game absence due to a hamstring pull. Jackson has hit just 13 of his last 42 shots and only one of his last 16 three-point field goal attempts. He’s mitigated those struggles with an aggregate 18 boards, 17 assists, and 10 steals over those outings while scoring 39 points, the latter highlighted by a 9 for 9 effort from the free throw line Saturday night.
-- Part-time starter Bonzie Colson is the only member of the Irish to show well in both of the team’s last two outings, scoring 17 with five rebounds in a loss at Miami and following with 19 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday’s win over the Tar Heels.
Colson hit 14 of his last 25 field goal attempts and 8 of 9 free throws in the two contests.
-- In a league without a dominant squad but one replete with 11 of NCAA Tournament quality, the desperate team usually prevails.
Tonight, that’s Clemson.
O’Malley/Prister Prediction: Clemson 67 Notre Dame 64
-- ACC Prediction Record: 9-2 Straight Up; 8-3 Against the Spread