Notre Dame has received plaudits for its ability to bounce back after defeat over the last two seasons. Now head coach Mike Brey’s Irish are putting together winning streaks that will ensure another chance to dance in March.
Two days after beating ACC co-leader North Carolina in South Bend, Brey and the Irish traveled to South Carolina and took out fellow 7-4 squad Clemson, winning wire-to-wire, 89-83 in Greenville.
At the heart of Notre Dame’s dominating victory was the three-point shot, a skill set that was downplayed by Brey two days prior when his team earned victory over the Tar Heels despite a 3 for 16 shooting effort from long range.
Notre Dame nailed 10 of its first 20 three-point offerings Monday and shot nearly 51 percent from the field overall against defensive-minded Clemson team.
Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson lead the way for the visitors with 19 and 17 points, respectively, with Auguste pouring in 15 in the second stanza after missing the majority of the first half with early foul trouble.
Aiding the duo’s cause was junior forward V.J. Beachem with 15 including a 4 for 7 effort from beyond the arc, plus sophomore Bonzie Colson who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, the latter tying Auguste for the game’s best total.
Steve Vasturia closed out Notre Dame’s quintet of double figures scorers, netting 10 points with four assists.
Clemson was led by senior Jaron Blossomgame’s game-high 33 points. Blossomgame dominated throughout, hitting 14 of 20 field goal attempts, scoring on whomever Brey chose to assign to him.
The Tigers shot better than 52 percent from the field including a 10 for 20 effort from long range but their marksmanship was mitigated by Notre Dame’s 21 for 25 effort from the charity stripe and repeated answers on the offensive end.
The Irish led from the outset after Beachem opened the contest with a pair of triples in the game’s first two minutes. Brey’s bench greatly aided the Irish cause thereafter, earning 16 points, five boards and a pair of assists and steals from freshmen Rex Pflueger and Matt Ryan plus Granger, Ind. product Austin Torres, the latter of which provided a mid- first half spark with Auguste sidelined.
Unranked but on the cusp in both polls, Notre Dame improved to 17-7 overall and 8-4 in league play and will host No. 13 Louisville (19-5; 8-3) Saturday afternoon in South Bend. The Cardinals lost Monday night at Duke and will thus be the seventh consecutive squad Notre Dame will have faced following a loss.
The Irish are 4-2 in those contests to date and have taken sole possession of fifth place in the process.
A three-game road trip awaits the Irish following the matchup with Louisville. Notre Dame will close its regular season with home games against Miami and North Carolina State. The Hurricanes beat the Irish 79-70 in Coral Gables last week and are one of three repeat foes Notre Dame will face over the final 13 days of the regular season.