While speculation swirled and interest surrounded the status of freshman guard Demetrius Jackson Tuesday night, the Irish coughed up a seven-point lead with 2:47 to play in regulation but managed to escape with a 68-64 win over Clemson in double overtime.
Sophomore forward Zach Auguste recorded his first career double-double (14 points and 12 rebounds) in the win over Clemson on Tuesday.
When the Tigers (15-8, 6-5 ACC) grabbed a 62-60 lead in overtime, it marked their first since holding an 18-17 advantage in the first half. Notre Dame (13-12, 4-8) played without Jackson due to the rookie’s recent “poor academic habits” according to head coach Mike Brey, who added that Jackson could return to the team as soon as late this week.
“I’m proud of our group,” Brey said after the win. “We had it won a couple times, we handed it back a couple times, and found a way to win it. We looked like we were going to escape a couple times and we couldn’t. They’re very good.”
During a slow-paced first half, the Irish jumped out to a 6-2 lead on three consecutive buckets from Zach Auguste. The sophomore forward earned his first career double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds in 38 minutes while Brey said what could be a broken finger plagued fifth-year senior center Garrick Sherman’s six-point, 3-of-11 shooting performance. Trainers took Sherman to the locker room in the first half temporarily, but the center re-entered the game with a bandage on his right ring finger.
“Starting off in the first half, I did pretty well,” Auguste said. “I know I had about four or five rebounds. I talked to the coaches and they said, ‘Hey, try to get your double-double and try to attack the glass. That’s what the main focus should be.’ And it was.”
Clemson junior forward K.J. McDaniels scored a game-high 30 points, and added 14 rebounds and five blocks in the losing effort.
“We saw one of the best players in the league in McDaniels,” Brey said. “He is very good. We needed a league win and I’m proud that we were able to get a league win.”
The Irish trotted out their eighth different starting lineup of the season with freshman forward V.J. Beachem replacing fellow freshman Steve Vasturia. It marked the first time since the 1999-2000 season that Notre Dame has started three freshmen (Matt Carroll, Jere Macura and Ivan Kartelo) in one year.
Despite not starting, Vasturia played 41 minutes and sunk a pair of three-pointers in the second overtime that helped put the Irish over the top.
“I’m just trying to make an impact, whether it’s knocking down shots or getting loose balls, anything to help us get a win like tonight,” said Vasturia, who at one point harnessed three loose balls in one minute for the Irish.
With 10 seconds to play in the first overtime, Clemson junior guard Rod Hall’s layup cut the Tiger deficit to two points. Sophomore center Landry Nnoko stole the inbounds pass and was fouled by junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton. He made both free throws to force the second overtime.
With the win, Notre Dame avoids beginning a three-game ACC roadtrip with a three-game losing streak. The Irish play at Boston College on Sunday.
“It’s huge,” Brey said. “We played really well. We are up a couple possessions and they came back at us. We were much better with the ball after we had some key turnovers that could have cost us the game. We rebounded from it. We needed to win this game. We would’ve been really struggling if we didn’t.”