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Notre Dame Basketball

Surging onward: Notre Dame wins 6th in a row, throttles Clemson

January 12, 2022

Don’t look on Tobacco Road.

Arguably the Atlantic Coast Conference’s hottest team resides in the Midwestern snowbelt.

It’s none other than Mike Brey’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Paced by 21 points from hot-shooting senior guard Dane Goodwin and 20 from freshman sensation Blake Wesley, the Irish froze out visiting Clemson, 72-56, Wednesday night inside Purcell Pavilion.

Winning for the sixth-straight time and seventh game in eight outings, Notre Dame improved to 10-5 overall and 4-1 in league play.

Likewise, the Irish remained perfect – 7-0 – at home.

“Pretty clear we’ve clearly got some momentum right now, playing well together,” said Goodwin, who scored eight points in the early going as Notre Dame uncorked a 17-4 run that dictated the tone. “I think especially well on the defensive end, kind of took them out of rhythm, shut them down a little bit. Got some open looks out of it. I think it’s a mix of a lot of things, the main thing being we’re really playing well together right now.

“At times, I think in my tenure here, I don’t know if we’ve got on this big of a roll, really. We’re really playing well right now. Like I said before, we’re playing well together. It’s not just one, two or three of us but collectively as a group. Today was a case of that, and we really shut them down I think. Playing well offensively and defensively.”

It's Notre Dame’s best start in league play since it opened the 2016-17 campaign 5-0 before it suffered its first league loss.

“It’s very mental, there’s no question about it, for a group to kind of have an edge,” said Brey, who on Tuesday went to the dining hall on campus and implored students to pack Purcell. “First of all, our crowd was fabulous. And don’t worry, I’m going to jump from table to table in the dining hall before every game because our student section, as soon as I came out and saw that, it just gives our guys energy. The building was alive.

“It was neat to see us start off with a punch. We haven’t really done that, we haven’t really got out of the gate, but I think our crowd helps us.”

That punch never relented across the opening half, when the Irish constructed a 39-22 halftime edge – their most at the break since a 16-point lead late last season at home against Florida State – and got 15 of Goodwin’s game-high output.

Goodwin and Nate Laszewski scored a combined 13 points before the game was five minutes old; Laszewski closed with eight points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and zero turnovers with a team-best plus-21 rating.

After a slow start, an undeterred Wesley ignited the Irish with a variety of dazzling attacks to the basket, nine trips to the free-throw line and a pair of 3-pointers. He added six rebounds and two assists to his 20-point output, though the hometown freshman was charged with four turnovers.

Notre Dame pushed its lead to as many as 23 points in the second half; though its shooting cooled a bit in the game’s final 20 minutes, the Irish defense held steady.

Clemson (10-6, 2-3) was harried into six-for-32 shooting from 3-point range and shot just 34.4% from the floor for the game (21-for-61).

It all adds up to Notre Dame having resuscitated its NCAA postseason hopes at almost precisely the midpoint of the schedule; the Irish have played 15 games and have 16 left on their regular-season schedule.

“Well it’s all in front of us, no question about it,” Brey said. “We’ve handled business here the last two weeks to kind of dream about that (NCAA Tournament possibility) and keep working for it.

“Dane Goodwin is a player of the year candidate, in my opinion. I don’t know if he’s talked about like that, but they dream about that, and they know what they’re trying to chase.”

After consecutive road wins at Pittsburg and Georgia Tech during this streak, the Irish now will try to sustain their momentum Saturday at Virginia Tech (6 p.m., ACC Network).  

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