Clemson has experienced plenty of heartache in ACC play this season with four losses by two points or less. In each, the Tigers had a chance to win at the end only to see misfortune befall them. The Tigers were staring a similar scenario late in Wednesday night’s game at Notre Dame, but this time the basketball gods smiled on them as they eked out a 64-62 victory that strengthens their NCAA Tournament resume.
This was a tightly fought game throughout. The Tigers did hold a nine point lead midway through the first half but that was totally erased by halftime. In the second half, the Tigers twice had a six point lead. But the Irish wouldn’t let them get away and actually took a four point lead themselves with four minutes to play.
That set up a mad dash to the finish. Clemson led 63-61 :18 left after Shelton Mitchell went 1-2 from the line. The Irish came down and fired up a three that missed, but Nate Laszewski got the rebound for the Irish was fouled in the lane by Mitchell. He made his first free throw, but after a Brad Brownell timeout, he missed the second and Clyde Trapp rebounded with two seconds left and was fouled. He made the first and intentionally missed the second, and a desperation three-quarters court heave by John Mooney was well off the mark.
Marcquise Reed led the Tigers with 22 points. Elijah Thomas had 14 points and eight rebounds. The Tigers shot 44% for the game despite going 3-12 from three. And once again the Tigers turned in a stellar defensive performance limiting the Irish to 36% shooting.
The win improves Clemson to 18-12 overall and 8-9 in the ACC. With NC State’s loss to Georgia Tech Wednesday night, the Tigers move into a tie with the Wolfpack for 8th in the league though State holds the head to head tiebreaker. Clemson can finish no higher than 8th in the league standings and no lower than 9th. And it’s the same for State, so those two teams are locked in to the first game of the second round of the ACC Tournament next Wednesday at noon in Charlotte. The Tigers close out the regular season Saturday at home against Syracuse with a noon tip.
Brad Brownell postgame press conference