Clemson Drops Notre Dame To Sixth Straight Defeat, 64-62
The fight remains in the Fighting Irish, but the supposed luck of the Irish remains on an extended hiatus.
A heartbreaking 64-62 defeat to Clemson (18-12 overall, 8-9 ACC) on Senior Night at the Purcell Pavilion was the sixth consecutive setback for Notre Dame (13-17, 3-14).
Junior forward John Mooney continued his amazing season with 18 points and career highs in rebounds (20) and assists (five) for his 19th double-double of the season and 13th in 17 ACC games. The only one to produce more in one season in league games only since 1996-97 was Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan with 15.
Notre Dame played with seven scholarship players and eight overall with walk-on graduate student Liam Nelligan, who as the lone senior out of eligibility next season was inserted into the starting lineup for the first 1:32. Junior wing Nik Djogo was ruled out for the season earlier in the afternoon because of a torn labrum that will require surgery. Sophomore forward D.J, Harvey also was scratched from the lineup after incurring a hamstring injury the previous day in practice.
Trailing 54-52, Notre Dame converted back-to-back threes by Mooney and then on a bank shot not called by junior T.J. Gibbs for a 58-54 advantage but — as has been the case throughout much of the season — was unable to close. Irish freshman Nate Laszewski grabbed a missed three by Gibbs with 3.1 seconds left and Notre Dame trailing 63-61, and was fouled. He converted his first free throw but the second fell short and Clemson’s Clyde Trapp grabbed the rebound, forcing a foul.
Irish freshman guard Dane Goodwin enjoyed a quality game with 38:28 playing time and tallied 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting (2 of 3 from beyond the arc) and five rebounds.
“We fought and battled and gave ourselves a chance,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey told the Notre Dame Basketball Network afterwards in what has been a familiar theme all season. “That’s an old (four fifth-year seniors) team that made winning plays because we’re not used to making them — yet. But we’ll get there someday.”
The Irish close their regular season Saturday at noon at Pitt, the last-place team in the ACC.
Despite converting only one of its first six field-goal attempts, Notre Dame built an early 9-5 lead before hitting a stretch of eight minutes without a field goal and falling behind 20-11. That drought was finally broken with a three by Goodwin, who came off the bench to convert all three of his field-goal attempts in the first 20 minutes.
The shooting woes continued for the Fighting Irish, who converted four of their first 20 field-goal attempts while the Tigers kept them at arm’s length by building a 26-19 advantage.
After two free throws by Gibbs pulled Notre Dame within 28-23, the Irish had at that point converted 11 of 12 free throws, a valued improvement from the 4 of 14 performance at the charity stripe in Sunday’s 75-61 defeat at Louisville.
Notre Dame connected on its last four field goals and closed with a 7-0 run on a Goodwin lay-in off a nice feed from Mooney — who had 10 points and nine rebounds by halftime — a short jumper by Mooney and then a Gibbs trey near the 25-second mark for the 32-32 result at the intermission
Notre Dame finished the first half shooting 34.6 percent from the floor but out-rebounded Clemson 20-13.
A Laszewski basket to open the second half continued Notre Dame’s 9-0 run for its 34-32 edge, but Clemson post player Elijah Thomas’ basket-and-one put the Tigers ahead (37-35) for what would be approximately the next 15 minutes, with the lead extended to as much as six (47-41).
With Clemson still ahead 53-49, Irish freshman point guard Prentiss Hubb converted the first of three straight treys, followed by Mooney and then Gibbs’ bank that matched Notre Dame’s largest lead of the game, 58-54 with 3:58 remaining.
Baskets by Shelton Mitchell and Tigers standout Marcquise Reed, the third-leading scorer in the ACC who finished with 22 points on 8 of 13 from the field and 6 of 6 from the foul line, knotted the score at 58 before a Goodwin free throw gave Notre Dame its final lead, 59-58, at the 2:07 mark.
The Irish regained possession and had a chance to extend the edge but had a shot-clock violation when Mooney didn’t even touch the ball. A step-back jumper by Reed gave Clemson the lead for good, and then he followed with two free throws on a one-and-one for a 62-59 cushion.
Hubb drove for a lay-up with 19 seconds left, and then Mitchell converted only one of his two free throws a second later, making the score 63-61
Gibbs’ three-pointer for the win was an air-ball that Laszewski grabbed with 3.1 seconds left, but both he and then Clemson’s Trapp made their first and missed second for the final 64-62 result, although Mooney’s full-court attempt on his final shot came tantalizingly close.