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Tigers Hold On to Keep NCAA Hopes Alive in Tight Win Over Fighting Irish

Clemson overcomes Notre Dame and John Mooney in two point victory

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Clemson Tigers (18-12, 8-9 ACC) squeaked out a win on the road against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (13-17, 3-14 ACC) with some late free throw makes and a missed last-second heave by the Irish. In a 64-62 win for the Tigers, Notre Dame’s John Mooney was the player of the game with 18 rebounds, 20 points and five assists. In the end, it wasn’t quite enough for the Fighting Irish. The Tigers were led by Marquise Reed’s efficient 22 points and six rebounds on just 13 shots. Clemson also got a strong performance from Eli Thomas who finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks despite playing just four and a half minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.

The defense looked good for most of the first half for the Tigers, but a late 7-0 run by Notre Dame tied the score at 32 at the half. Notre Dame was able to draw several fouls against the Clemson big men and got two fouls on each of Aamir Simms, Thomas, and Javan White. Notre Dame was able to capitalize on the lack of interior defense, scoring 11 points from the line in the first half and getting several short jumpers to fall. Despite their poor three-point shooting (3-13 in the first half), Notre Dame was able to stay in the game thanks to the foul trouble for the Tigers. Marquise Reed led the way for the Tigers with ten points in the half.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Mooney and T.J. Gibbs went toe to toe with Thomas and Reed in the second half and the game stayed tight until the end. Clemson was able to get a pull-up jumper on the left side of the lane from Marcquise Reed with 55 seconds remaining to take a slim lead of 60-59. A steal from Reed, followed by two free throws put the Tigers up by three with 26 seconds remaining. A blown switch on the ensuing defensive possession for Clemson allowed Notre Dame to pull within one point on an easy layup. Shelton Mitchell made one from the charity stripe after being fouled on the inbound, but missed his second free throw attempt with 18 seconds remaining. Notre Dame’s next possession ended with an airball from Gibbs which was rebounded by Notre Dame freshman, Nate Laszewski. Laszewski made the front end of the one-and-one after he was fouled by Shelton Mitchell and was iced with a timeout by Brad Brownell after the make. The freshman couldn’t handle the pressure and his second free throw came up well short and wide left. Clyde Trapp was able to track down the rebound and went to the line for two free throws with two seconds remaining after another intentional foul. He made the first and purposely missed the second off the front of the rim. The ball was rebounded and flung the length of the court by John Mooney, but luck was on the Tigers side and the shot went wide.

This win keeps Clemson’s chances of an at-large NCAA Tournament bid alive going into their final regular season matchup with the Syracuse Orange this Saturday. A game against a short-handed, weaker opponent that came down to the last second wasn’t the ideal outcome for the Tigers, but a win is a win. They will head back to Littlejohn Coliseum this weekend hoping to get a quality win against a dangerous Syracuse team. With a win against the Orange, the Tigers could put themselves very close to securing a trip to the NCAA Tournament. A win in a second round matchup in the ACC tournament against NC State would make it all but guaranteed.