Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Irish Top Tigers 75-70 in Thriller

January 7, 2017

21st-ranked Notre Dame (14-2, 3-0) took on ACC foe Clemson (11-4, 1-2) Saturday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish came into the game 4-0 against Clemson since joining the ACC in 2013. The Irish came off a 77-70 win over ninth-ranked Louisville on Wednesday night, while Clemson fell to 14th-ranked North Carolina 89-86 on Tuesday night.

Rex Pflueger found Bonzie Colson under the basket with under a minute to go for the go ahead bucket which ended up being the winning shot as the Irish beat the Clemson Tigers 75-70 at Purcell Pavilion on Saturday afternoon. Matt Farrell put the game away with a three-pointer with nine seconds left as the Irish used a huge second half to give them a 3-0 record in ACC play. The Irish outscored the Tigers 42-30 in the second half.

Colson got his 10th double-double of the season, as he finished the day with 13 points and 12 boards.

“What a great college game,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey stated. “They’re really good and they’re much improved. They are different because they have more offensive guys with those transfers. Our will to win, not only today, but all week, has been fabulous. I’m proud of our group, as we showed great toughness.

“We weren’t playing well the first half and we didn’t get off to a great start. When it counted we were ready to deliver and I thought our defense was key again the last couple minutes.”

The story of the game came from behind the three-point line, as the Irish made 15 of 32 three-pointers, while the Tigers were 7 for 18.

“What helped us in the second half was Clemson’s defense got a little tired,” explained Brey. “When we downshift, we can spread the floor and now we have driving areas, drive kicks and drive dumpoffs. They were fatigued a little bit and couldn’t defend us like they did in the first 10 minutes.” 

The Irish opened the half shooting a lot better and making some standout defensive plays. After a couple made threes by VJ Beachem and Farrell, the Irish cut the lead to four going into the first TV timeout with 15:34 left in the game. Vasturia gave the Irish the lead after a drive to the rim. To that point, the Irish had outscored the Tigers 13-5 since the start of the half.

Clemson came right back with four straight points to regain the lead. Colson had a huge offensive rebound and put-back to cut the lead back to one. Offensive rebounding was much improved in the second half. The back and forth nature continued as the teams traded baskets approaching the midway point of the half.

Our will to win, not only today, but all week, has been fabulous. I’m proud of our group, as we showed great toughness. - Mike Brey
Beachem reached the 20-point mark on a made three, his sixth of the afternoon as the Irish and Tigers became deadlocked at 53 with 10:17 left in the game. Both teams suddenly went cold from the field with only one made field goal between the two teams in over a two-minute span. Rex Pflueger broke the cold stretch with a jumper to tie the game at 55.

Beachem continued his strong game with a tough shot to give the Irish a 60-58 lead. He tied his career-high with 22 points on the shot. The Tigers wouldn't go away as they played better the closer the game got. Like a heavyweight bout, the teams traded huge blows late in the game. Clemson took a 66-64 lead going into the final TV timeout after a layup by Elijah Thomas with just 2:57 to go.

“Today, they helped more on drives or on Bonzie,” said Brey. “We kicked it out and VJ had really clean looks. The one got him going was in transition. VJ is a transition guy. When he gets some stuff in transition, it usually gets him started.”

Farrell continued his strong second half with a big three-pointer to give the Irish a short-lived lead as the Tigers took the lead right back on a Shelton Mitchell layup. Vasturia hit a big three in the corner then Jaron Blossomgame answered with a driving layup to tie it at 70 with under a minute left.

Blossomgame led Clemson with 22 points and eight rebounds on the afternoon.

The Tigers opened the game on a 10-0 run led by Blossomgame who started the game off hot. Colson ended the scoreless drought nearly four minutes into the game with two free throws for the Irish. The Irish got back into it thanks to an 11-2 run highlighted by big threes from Farrell and Pflueger.

Notre Dame took their first lead at 14-12 on a Beachem three-pointer with 12:21 left in the first half. At the midway point of the half, the Tigers held a 18-17 advantage after back to back threes from Gabe DeVoe. The two teams traded leads going into the under eight-minute TV timeout with the Tigers still clinging to a one-point lead.

Devoe finished the game with 14 points for the Tigers.

The Irish became jump shot dependent as the Tigers built a 26-20 lead. The size advantage bothered the Irish as they gave up many offensive rebounds. Clemson on the other hand was hot shooting the ball from three at 50%. But thanks to Vasturia, the Irish stayed in it. The senior captain was coming off a career-high 24 points against Louisville.

The Tigers built a nine point lead with three minutes left in the half before a made three from Beachem cut it to six. The Irish made four consecutive shots but Clemson still held an eight-point lead to that point. The Tigers led at half 40-33 led by 12 points from DeVoe. Clemson shot 53% in the half compared to 44% for the Irish. Beachem led Notre Dame with 11 points on 4-6 shooting.

The senior captain needed a big game and the Irish needed him to have a big game after a sluggish start. Beachem was unconscious from three-point range on the afternoon, as he hit eight three-pointers.

TURNING POINT: Trailing 10-5 with just over 15 minutes left in the first half, Beachem hit his first three-pointer of the game. Over the next six minutes, Notre Dame would hit five more field goals, which would be all from behind the arc to take a 20-18 lead. The stretch included back-to-back-back threes from Beachem, Farrell and Pflueger.

WHAT’S NEXT: Notre Dame will hit the road for the first of three-straight road games. The Irish will play at Miami on January 12th.

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