Photo by Bart Boatwright | The Clemson Insider
Notre Dame Basketball

Four Score: Irish Win Again at Clemson

February 9, 2020
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Clemson had home-court, its preferred tempo and fans who, for whatever reason, had honed in on targeting Rex Pflueger.

That last decision was a significant mistake.

Notre Dame’s fifth-year senior burned the host Tigers for a game-high 18 points, Pflueger’s most points against an Atlantic Coast Conference foe since he burned Florida State for 19 points February 10, 2018, and the Fighting Irish rallied from a seven-point second-half deficit to win, 61-57 at Littlejohn Coliseum.

“They definitely had my name in their background and I heard my name about 30 times,” Pflueger told the ACC Network post-game. “When I hit a couple shots, I had to let them know that I heard them.”

Perhaps it is time the ACC hears the Fighting Irish, winners of four-straight league games and now 15-8 overall, .500 in league play at 6-6.

“This whole season has almost been like my past year, we had a little rough start in the middle of the season, but thanks to coaches, my teammates, and really the entire Notre Dame organization having my back, it’s been special,” said Pflueger, who’s averaged 10 points-per-game during the winning binge. “It’s more than team, it’s a family.

“We’ve known we had this type of firepower since the beginning of the year. We’re getting our confidence and swagger back. But it doesn’t matter if we’re on a four-game winning streak now; our next one is the most important.”

Tied at 50-all with four minutes left in the game, Notre Dame uncorked a pivotal 11-4 scoring run that secured the victory. T.J. Gibbs hit a tough jumper in the lane, Pflueger drained a smooth baseline jumper and bottomed his fourth 3-pointer of the game for a 57-52 lead. John Mooney --- who notched the 40th double-double of his Irish career --- found Nate Laszewski wide-open beneath the bucket and then polished off the win with a pair of free throws with 7.2 seconds.

“I think, you know, even though tonight we had enough offense, we really have had great offense up until tonight,” said ND coach Mike Brey, who recorded career-win No. 432 with the Irish. “We did have enough in a spurt in the second half. We’re being really efficient offensively and we’re making big shots.

“We’re older. This is an older group, I was waiting for them in December and early January to show a little bit of the mettle and toughness that they’ve had these last seven games. So it’s neat to see it. We do have very good senior leadership.”

Mooney closed with 16 points and 11 boards while Gibbs contributed 10. It was the lowest scoring output for Notre Dame since its 62-60 loss to Indiana on December 21.

But the win is ultimately what mattered for the Irish, who initiated a season-defining stretch with this contest. Notre Dame has road games this week at Virginia and Duke before it hosts North Carolina next Monday night.

The Irish led by as many as seven in the first half, 14-7, but they never got into a consistent offensive rhythm. Prentiss Hubb, hero in the win against Pittsburgh last Wednesday night, had just three points, three rebounds and six of the Irish’s 11 turnovers.

Clemson played without leading scorer Aamir Simms (13.4 ppg), out with the flu, but got a career-best 16 from freshman and Indiana native Alex Hemenway. Tevin Mack, a transfer by way of Texas and Alabama, also added 16 for the Tigers, who had won four-straight at home before losing to the Irish.

“They are a great defensive team, and they just, you know, probably weren’t going to have as much offense tonight without Simms; let’s be honest,” Brey said. “But nobody feels sorry for anybody in this league, it’s a brutal league. I’m very proud of our group to get a road win and do some tough stuff at the end to escape with a win in this league.”

Notre Dame plays at defending national champion Virginia, a narrow loser on Saturday at No. 5 Louisville, Tuesday night at 9 (ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU).

King Rex: Pflueger Fuels ND Win

ISD Video | Mike Brey Post-Clemson Win

Irish Sports Daily
Final Box Score

 

 
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