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Notre Dame Basketball

Tae Davis Turns Up, Notre Dame Upsets Clemson

March 2, 2024

Senior Night. Home Finale. 

There could have been many distractions for Notre Dame  (12-17, 7-11) entering Saturday’s contest with Clemson (20-9, 10-8), but the Irish weren’t phased by much in the 69-62 upset over the Tigers. 

The Irish were in a similar hole to start the second half as Clemson led 34-31 at the break. 

Sophomore forward Tae Davis waited six minutes into the second half to score his first bucket of the game, but from there, it was his show. Davis scored 18 second half points as he went 5-for-6 from the field and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line. 

Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry admitted he had to get on Davis to jump-start his big second half as the Indianapolis native took just one shot in the first half. 

“There were times I wanted more from him,” stated Shrewsberry. “He’s gotta recognize matchups and get involved more. Sometimes he’ll fade and stand in the opposite corner when he’s got an advantageous matchup.”

Davis also squashed any good vibes for Clemson head coach Brad Brownell’s return to Indiana as the Tigers didn’t have an answer for him despite being well-aware of what was coming. 

“They wrinkled a couple screens on him that our guys didn’t handle very well,” said Brownell. “We talked about some stuff at halftime and they used a guard to screen for him and he got to the rim a couple times. I was disappointed a little in the way they handled it. It maybe should happen once, but it shouldn’t happen multiple times.” 

Shrewsberry was more than pleased with Davis’ effort to seal Saturday’s win, but he also made it known he is OK if it comes earlier than crunch time. 

“It’s ok to turn up from the start of the game,” Shrewsberry said of his conversation with Davis. “I don’t have to wait until the last nine minutes to do it. 20 minutes in the first half is cool to turn up and do that the entire game. He just chooses to wait until the end to turn up, but if he’s going to do it, I’ll take it at the end if he’s going to carry us like he did.” 

Notre Dame and Clemson ended the game with same amount of turnovers (7), rebounds (35) and free throws (11-of-14). The difference in the game was the three-ball. Clemson finished 5-for-28 while the Irish hit 10-of-28 from deep led by freshman Carey Booth, who finished with 11 points and hit three treys.

The Irish hit treys and forced some tough shots on the other end, which was noticed by Brownell. 

“We got 5-for-28 from three and that’s pretty much the story of the game,” Brownell said. “Certainly, I think their team and defense had something to do with it. I think those guys are playing extremely well. They’re coaching the fire out of them and they’re really guarding. Credit to those guys for a very well-played game.” 

Freshman Markus Burton took the first five shots of the night for Notre Dame and didn’t look back as he tied Clemson’s PJ Hall for a game-high 21 points. 17 of Burton’s points came in the first half as he went 7-for-13 from the field. 

“Markus Burton is an elite player,” stated Brownell. “He’s just hard to handle for every team in the league. He puts so much pressure on everybody. He makes everyone else better. That’s what great players do.”  

Matt Zona was one of three seniors honored on Senior Night and while his six points might get overlooked, the New Jersey native came up big in his final game at Purcell Pavilion. Zona hit two threes and pulled for four rebounds in 28 minutes of action, which included getting a key stop late on Hall. 

The minutes were larger as starting center Kebba Njie fouled out with six minutes to go, but Zona didn’t want any credit for stepping up. 

“I don’t want to take any pride or credit,” Zona stated. “I’m just so thrilled to be here and helping this team win and going to war with my brothers. It’s a lot of fun. We’re playing really good basketball right now. I’m a firm believer that you want to leave a place better than you found it. Whether it’s me doing something or not doing something, I think this place is in a really good spot.” 

The playing time might not be as much as others, but Shrewsberry believes Zona, who he named a captain prior to the game, has been a foundational piece to the rebuild as he was one of the few holdovers from the Brey era. 

“He’s a guy who will always be a foundational piece for me,” explained Shrewsberry. “I’m using him as the example for other guys about how you handle yourself when things might not be going the right way and how you handle yourself as a teammate on a daily basis. How you come in and prepare to play even though you might not play that much. He’s a prime example of that. That’s how you build. 

“Our culture isn't what it is without him.” 

Zona has seen several highs and lows during his time at Notre Dame, but Saturday was a night he won’t soon forget. 

“It’s surreal,” said Zona. “It’s my dream to play at this university and to do it, it’s unbelievable.” 

Braeden Shrewsberry hasn’t shot well over the last two games, but he’s hit back-breaking daggers in Notre Dame’s final two home games. In Tuesday’s win against Wake Forest, the freshman guard nailed a three to give the Irish a four-point lead with 1:28 left in the game. On Saturday, Shrewsberry hit his second three to give Notre Dame a seven-point advantage with 1:29 on the clock. 

Booth and Davis have also raised their level of play down the stretch. 

Notre Dame has also bought into hard-nosed defense. Clemson scored 87 a year ago against the Irish, but were held to just 39 percent shooting from the field on Saturday. 

The growing pains to build a strong culture were tough, but Notre Dame is starting to show it can win and make game-winning plays in game situations. 

“We’re having fun,” said Shrewsberry. “We’re not thinking anymore. We’re playing. Sometimes what we do offensively and defensively, it takes some time to see it and learn it. I have the most fun in the second half. It’s like I have a joystick. These dudes are right in front of me and I can tell them, ‘You get over there. You come over here. You come right here.’ We execute and we can get a bucket. 

“We couldn’t do that early in the year. We were struggling with getting to the right spots and everything else. Now, you’re seeing us play off instincts more on both ends, so we’re playing a little bit faster. That’s why I always say we’re going to play our best at the end because we’re not thinking anymore.” 

Notre Dame will hit the road to Chapel Hill for a Tuesday night clash with North Carolina. Tip is set for 7:00 PM ET on ACC Network. 

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