'Road Dawgs' return as Notre Dame men grab ACC win

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

GREENVILLE, S.C. – The lights weren’t as bright, the stage not as big as the last time out as the Notre Dame men’s basketball team returned to Atlantic Coast Conference work Monday on the road.

But the Irish were just as good, as attention to detail, as determined to get another conference win.

Zach Auguste broke loose from early foul trouble for 19 points and eight rebounds and Demetrius Jackson added 17 points as Notre Dame won a second league game in three days with an 89-83 victory over Clemson at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

Notre Dame moves to 17-7; 8-4 in the ACC. No league team has more than eight wins. Louisville, North Carolina and Virginia also all have eight.

It was Notre Dame’s third league road win and snapped a two-game conference losing streak away from home. All five Irish starters scored double figures. Notre Dame finished 21-of-25 (84 percent) from the foul line.

Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson (14-10; 7-5) with 30 points.

Clemson had won all five of its league “home” games coming in.

The Irish never trailed and led by as many as 13 points. This was a game there for the taking, and the visitors took it.

Working off a scoring run that saw him go for 10 points in a row, Blossomgame helped bring the Tigers within one, 39-38, with 16:50 before the Irish had yet another answer. After sitting much of the first half with foul trouble, Auguste erupted for seven points in a quick burst to help the Irish go up by seven with 12:33 left. Each time Clemson got within at least three to make it a one-possession game, the Irish responded.

After Clemson got within three on a Donte Grantham rebound follow, Notre Dame responded with back-to-back 3s from Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem to go up nine, which tied its largest lead.

The Irish lead then hit double digits for the first time when Auguste dropped in a rebound follow to make it 69-58 with 5:10 left. With the Clemson big men in foul trouble, Auguste could do as he pleased much of the second half.

Notre Dame trailed big early in previous road losses to Syracuse and Miami, something that didn’t sit well with the head coach.

“I really didn’t think we fought as hard as we could in our last two road games at Syracuse and at Miami,” Irish coach Mike Brey told Jack Nolan on the Notre Dame radio pre-game show.

The Irish responded Monday with a solid start. Notre Dame jumped to an 11-2 lead just over four minutes in. The Irish also turned it over twice the first 4:44. That matched their turnover total in 40 minutes two nights earlier against North Carolina.

As easy as it looked early, Notre Dame’s offense bogged down before Auguste picked up two fouls in about 10 seconds. The Irish labored over five minutes with only one field goal, which allowed the Tigers to get off on a 10-2 run and get within one.

Notre Dame then jumped back up again by nine fueled by a pair of Matt Ryan 3-pointers and an old-fashion three-point play from junior power forward Austin Torres, who delivered some hustle minutes.

The Irish led by as many as nine three times the first 20 minutes to lead 35-29 at the break. It marked the first time since the second league road game that Notre Dame took a lead at intermission away from home.

Clemson and Notre Dame entered Monday’s game tied for fifth in the league. Really, the teams were tied for fourth since Louisville, which opened the week tied with North Carolina for first place, will not participate in postseason play after self-imposed sanctions in regard to an ongoing NCAA investigation. That stems from recruiting violations that occurred within the program.

The teams met for the fourth time as conference colleagues and for the first time in Greenville, a 45-minute drive from the Clemson campus. The Tigers are without a true home court this season while Littlejohn Coliseum undergoes a $63.5-million renovation.

The Irish again worked Monday without senior power forward A.J. Burgett. The captain missed his second-straight game recovering from a sprained ankle suffered Friday in practice.

“Our hope is we have him back for Saturday,” Brey said during his pre-game interview.

Bonzie Colson again started for Burgett.

Both teams had to deal with a quick Saturday-Monday turnaround. Notre Dame came to town with a little energy following a victory over then-No. 2 North Carolina while Clemson lost by three earlier that day at Virginia Tech.

This was the only Saturday-Monday league swing for Notre Dame.

The Irish were one of eight teams projected to make the NCAA tournament in ESPN’s latest Bracketology. Notre Dame was slotted as a No. 7 seed. Clemson was classified as one of the first four out.

Monday’s game capped a run of four ACC games in nine days for Notre Dame, which will now take most of the next two days off before getting back to work in advance of Saturday’s sold-out home game against No. 13 Louisville.

Louisville lost by seven points Monday at unranked Duke.

The Louisville game is the final home game of the month for Notre Dame, which is 11-1 at Purcell Pavilion, 4-1 in league play. It’s also the first of only two games over 14 days for Notre Dame.

NOTRE DAME (89): Beachem 4-8 3-4 15, Jackson 6-13 3-5 17, Auguste 8-12 3-3 19, Vasturia 3-7 2-2 10, Colson 3-9 5-6 11, Pflueger 1-2 4-4 6, Torres 1-1 1-1 3, Ryan 3-5 0-0 8, Farrell 0-0 0-0 0, Burns 0-0 0-0 0, Holtz 0-0 0-0 0, Burgett 0-0 0-0 0, Gregory 0-0 0-0 0, Geben 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-57 21-25 89.

CLEMSON (83): Blossomgame 13-19 2-4 30, Holmes 5-9 5-5 17, Grantham 5-11 1-3 15, Roper 3-6 0-0 7, Nnoko 0-1 3-4 3, Robertin 0-0 0-0 0, Davis 0-0 0-0 0, DeVoe 3-9 0-0 7, Hudson 1-1 0-0 2, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, McGillan 0-0 0-0 0, Djitte 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 31-59 11-16 83.

Halftime--Notre Dame 35-29. 3-Point Goals--Notre Dame 10-22 (Beachem 4-7, Vasturia 2-4, Ryan 2-4, Jackson 2-6, Colson 0-1), Clemson 10-20 (Grantham 4-6, Blossomgame 2-3, Holmes 2-5, Roper 1-1, DeVoe 1-5). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Notre Dame 30 (Auguste, Colson 8), Clemson 31 (Grantham 7). Assists--Notre Dame 14 (Vasturia 4), Clemson 12 (Roper 6). Total Fouls--Notre Dame 14, Clemson 18. A--8,195.

Demetrius Jackson and Notre Dame snapped a two-game league road losing streak Monday at Clemson.Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN