The Clemson Tigers (16-14) (8-10) would travel to South Bend, Indiana to conclude the regular season and take on the 12th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (26-5) (14-4) on Senior Night. Notre Dame honored seniors Jerian Grant (brother of former Tiger Jerai Grant) and Pat Connaughton prior to the game.
There was a question of how motivated Notre Dame would be in the contest as they have wrapped up a double-bye in the tournament and could not rise past or fall below the number three seed in the tournament. However, Notre Dame is still playing for a 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA tournament and was motivated to play. Clemson, on the other hand was looking to put an end to a long 2nd half slide and gain some momentum and a signature win going into post season play.
Coach Brad Brownell stated that the Tigers needed to get of to a quick start in order for them to be in this game and redshirt Junior Jaron Blossomgame took the message to heart scoring the first 7 Tiger points to keep the Tigers active early as Notre Dame victimized the Tiger defense with backdoor cuts to start the game 4-for-4 from the field.
Clemson would hang throughout the first part of the first half, but Notre Dame would start to hit there 3-pointers and Clemson began to turn the ball over with 4 turnovers in the first 8 minutes of the game, spurring the Fighting Irish to take a 15-11 lead with 12:50 remaining in the half. Blossomgame would continue to lead the charge for the Tigers against the Notre Dame zone scoring 13 of the teams first 17 points to cut the lead to 2 point with a 3-point play inside.
A Rod Hall transition jumper would tie the game at 19, but only briefly as Notre Dame would reel off a 7-2 with the help of a Flagrant-1 foul from Gabe DeVoe. Rod Hall would end the run, but Landry Nnoko would pick up his 2nd foul while allowing a 3-point play spearing a 9-2 Irish run prompting a timeout from Brad Brownell. Blossomgame would continue his unbelievable first half by scoring the last 4 points to cut the lead to 7.
Clemson knew that coming into the half they would have to maintain Notre Dame runs and re-establish offense other than Blossomgame. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Notre Dame had the same idea. Clemson would look to Landry Nnoko for offense; scoring 9 of the teams first 11 points, however, Notre Dame would again begin to establish themselves from behind the arc and the lane with extended runs of 7-0 and 11-2.
The game was starting to get away from the Tigers as a Steve Vasturias layup off full court pressure extended the Notre Dame lead to 60-44 with just 11:15 remaining. Clemson would try to cut into the lead from the free throw line with Nnoko and Blossomgame both heading to the line making 3-of-4.
Roper and Jackson would exchange 3-poninters as the lead was 13 with just under 10 minutes remaining as Notre Dame would once again go back to its zone defense to keep Clemson off the free-throw line and shoot over top. Jordan Roper would look to provide the offensive spark, but was off the line on his next two 3-pointers after nailing the 3 to cut the lead to 13.
Clemson would apply full court pressure after baskets and the Fighting irish were just picking it apart with fast break layups and dunk. A 3-point play by Jerian Grant would all but put the game out of reach extending the lead to 18. The final 6 minutes consisted of Notre Dame running away and hiding as they rolled to an easy 81-67 victory.
Clemson is now losers of 8 of its last 10 games with the road loss to end the season. Jaron Blossomgame was phenomenal with a game high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and 3 assists. Landry Nnoko was the only other Tiger in double figures scoring 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go along with 9 rebounds of his own. Nnoko and Blossomgame combined for 61% of the Clemson offense as again, the Tigers struggled form the field shooting only 40.6% while outrebounding the Fighting Irish 41-28.
Notre Dame finished Senior Night with 4 starters in double figures. Jerian Grant and Zach Auguste each finished with a team high 19 points to go along with 14 from Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia rounded out the double figure scorers with 12 of his own. Notre Dame shot an astonishing 54.5% from the field and dishing out 20 assists to only 4 turnovers.
Clemson finishes the regular season (16-14) and (8-10) in the ACC and are expected to take on Florida State in the 8 vs. 9 seed game to kick of the ACC tournament. Stay tuned to Shakin the Southland for all of your ACC Tournament Coverage.