It took two overtime periods, but Notre Dame (13-12, 4-8 ACC) overcame Clemson’s (15-8, 6-5) late charge to win in South Bend Tuesday night, 68-64. The Fighting Irish led for much of the game, but squandered opportunities to put Clemson away in regulation. The Tigers, as has been their mantra this season, fought, scrapped, and clawed their way for 40+ minutes, but once again, their offensive ineptitude saw them come up short.
The Irish led by as many as nine in the second half, but saw their lead dwindle in the waning minutes. The Tigers, led by a career best performance by K.J. McDaniels actually had a chance to win the game at the end of both regulation, and the first overtime.
With 25 seconds remaining in regulation and the Tigers down 1, Landry Nnoko and K.J. McDaniels forced a steal. On the ensuing possession, Rod Hall drove to the basket and was fouled with 4 seconds on the clock, giving Clemson two free throws and a shot at the lead. Hall, however, missed the first of two before hitting the second, tying the game, and sending the contest into overtime.
Just a few minutes later, The Tigers were in another position to win the game. After stealing an inbound pass with 10 seconds to go, Nnoko was fouled, and hit both free throws to tie the game at 60. On the following Notre Dame possession, Eric Atkins was forced into a double dribble, and Clemson had their second shot at claiming a victory. With .8 seconds to play, K.J. McDaniels was freed up on the inbound play and had a wide open look at the top of the arc to win the game for the Tigers. McDaniels, who had a career best 30 points and 14 rebounds, was strong with his shot, and the game was sent into double overtime.
The Tigers went just 2-10 from the field in the second overtime period, as the Fighting Irish were able to pull away and preserve a 68-64 victory. Another fantastic defensive effort was put to waste by Clemson’s inability to knock down jump shots and execute on the offensive end of the floor. McDaniels, the league’s leading shot blocker, added 5 blocks and 2 steals in a stellar all around performance.
The Tigers next get the Virginia Cavaliers in Littlejohn Coliseum this Saturday. The Cavaliers (20-5, 11-1) have climbed to 2nd in the ACC, and #17 ranked nationally. This game will offer the Tigers their biggest test at home since they beat the Duke Blue Devils there a month ago.