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HOOPS Preview: Notre Dame Vs. Clemson

NOTRE DAME (13-16, 3-13 ACC) VS. CLEMSON (17-12, 7-9 ACC)

Where: Purcell Pavilion (Notre Dame, Ind.)

Rankings: Both teams are unranked.

TV/Time: ESPNU, 9:00 p.m. ET.

Series Facts: Notre Dame leads the all-time series 5-1.

Last Meeting: The Tigers defeated the Irish 67-58 in Clemson on Jan. 20, 2018.

Notre Dame is back at home for the final time this season and will host the Clemson Tigers to close out their slate at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish have lost five-straight and will face a Clemson team that is one the bubble and coming off a two-point home loss to North Carolina.

Blue & Gold Illustrated takes a look at both teams before they meet this evening.

NOTRE DAME OVERVIEW

It was a tale of two halves for Notre Dame against Louisville this past Sunday.

The Irish shot just over 31 percent from the field in the first half, but trailed by five (29-24) to the Cardinals.

Mike Brey’s group bounced back in the second half offensively shooting 48.1 percent over the final 20 minutes, but the Irish eventually fell 75-61 on the road.

Though the shooting numbers from the field and three-point line (7-of-17/41.2 percent) were good, Notre Dame allowed the Cardinals to pull away.

Poor free throw shooting and rebounding were the two major contributing factors to Notre Dame’s demise.

Notre Dame has ranked among the best nationally from the charity stripe this season, but the Irish hit just 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) with all but one attempt coming in the second half.

Louisville also dominated the glass (49-30) and had 12 second-chance points in the second half alone, which put the team at 18 for the entire contest. That also helped the Cardinals score 46 points in the paint compared to Notre Dame’s 26.

Forward John Mooney led the way with his 18th double-double of the year going for 22 points and 13 rebounds. Guards Prentiss Hubb (16) and TJ Gibbs (11) were the only other Irish scorers in double-digits.

Forward Nate Laszewski added six points and five rebounds, while wing DJ Harvey had just four points on 10 attempts. Guard Dane Goodwin added the final two points.

It was an interesting game for the Irish. The first half was ugly, but Notre Dame was still in it despite Louisville shooting 45 percent from the field. The Cardinals shot 50 percent during the final 20 minutes to keep the Irish from cutting into the lead even with a stronger performance offensively.

Inconsistency has been the name of the game for Notre Dame all year. It just depends when those stretches come that have helped determine the win-loss record.

Final home game of the year and Senior Night — even though walk-on Liam Nelligan is the lone player being honored — should be motivation enough to have the Irish playing hard from the get-go.

Junior wing Nik Djogo missed his second-straight game against the Cardinals with a shoulder injury and his status is unknown. Junior big man Juwan Durham made the start in his place and freshman Chris Doherty saw limited action as the eighth man in the rotation. That could remain the same if Djogo is unable to go again.

CLEMSON OVERVIEW

The Tigers will have one distinct factor playing into their favor in tonight’s matchup.

Clemson has averaged just 69.7 points per game, but the Tigers are holding opponents to just 64.3 points on 40.7 percent shooting overall and 35.4 percent behind the arc. Brad Brownell’s group is shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 33.3 percent on three-point attempts.

Per KenPom.com, the Tigers rank 10th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 14th in two-point field goal percentage (44.2 percent). Those numbers bode well against a Notre Dame team that struggles to score the ball.

Again, Clemson doesn’t light it up on the scoreboard, but the Tigers play at a little bit of a slower pace ranking 250th nationally in adjusted tempo.

Senior guard Marcquise Reed has been the guy this season for the Tigers averaging 19.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game. Senior forward Elijah Thomas has been a strong complement inside with 13.1 points and 7.9 rebounds.

Reed is joined in the backcourt by fellow senior Shelton Mitchell (11.8 PPG), while sophomore Aamir Simms (8.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG) provides another option in the frontcourt for Brownell.

One player to watch will be senior forward David Skara (7.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG). He did not play the last time out against North Carolina with an upper-body injury, but the Tigers are optimistic about his return tonight against the Irish.

If Skara is unable to go again, sophomore guard Clyde Trapp (6.2 PPG) will probably get the nod after doing so against the Tar Heels.

After Trapp, the scoring production has been limited off the bench for Clemson. Freshman guard John Newman (2.0 PPG), freshman guard Tyson Hunter (1.8 PPG) and senior forward Javan White (1.8 PPG) see the most action, but have provided modest contributions.

GAME OUTLOOK

This could be another game that is a first to 65 or 70 wins.

Both teams will have plenty to play for in this one too. Notre Dame is hosting Senior Night for its final home game of the year, and Clemson is on the NCAA Tournament bubble per ESPN’s latest Bracketology that has the Tigers as one of the ‘First Four Our.’

So any loss, especially one that is at the bottom of the league, will hurt Clemson’s chances. And the Tigers need every win they can get. Clemson has lost to arguably all the top teams on their schedule.

In non-conference play, the Tigers lost to Nebraska, Creighton and Mississippi State with their best win coming against rival South Carolina. Against ACC foes, Clemson has just win over a team in the top half (Virginia Tech).

The Tigers may try to make a statement in this one.

Prediction

Clemson 68, Notre Dame 62

It’s just hard to pick Notre Dame at this point and especially in matchups where the Irish’s opponent is strong defensively.

Clemson also has strong play at guard and experience inside and outside that could be tough to deal with. I don’t see the Irish being able to slow down Reed and Mitchell enough in the backcourt. The Tigers win a close one.

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