NOTRE DAME, Ind. – In a season where adversity has become the norm, Notre Dame (13-12, 4-8 ACC) faced plenty, but came away victorious 68-64 in 2 OT over Clemson (15-8, 6-5) Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion. The Irish blew a seven-point lead down the stretch, but that was nothing compared to the news before the game that freshman point guard Demetrius Jackson was out of action indefinitely.
“It’s real simple – just academic habits,” Brey said of the reason Jackson was not on the Irish bench Tuesday. “He had such a great fall semester and summer, and he’s just behind.”
“You get to come back to basketball when those habits get more consistent,” Brey continued. “We’ll give him some time to get caught up and if he’s caught up at the end of the week we’ll get him back to practice and go from there.”
Twitter was abuzz Tuesday night as word of Jackson’s absence from the game spread. Brey shot down rumors that Jackson might intend to transfer to Illinois.
“I think Demetrius Jackson is very committed to being at Notre Dame,” Brey said when asked about the Illinois rumor. “It’s a matter of just getting back into a good academic rhythm that I’ve seen before.”
In the midst of Jackson’s absence, Zach Auguste had a career game with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Auguste hit Notre Dame’s first three shots and scored the team’s first six points. Auguste scored his six points in just over two minutes, but he didn’t score again until his dunk with 5:56 left in the first half gave the Irish a 21-20 lead.
“I’m really happy with his progress,” Brey said of Auguste. “He’s getting confident.”
Auguste finished 6 of 12 from the field en-route to his first career double-double. All 14 of his points, which were one off his career-high, came before the end of regulation.
After five ties and seven lead changes in the first half, the Irish led 32-27 at the break. The 32 points snapped a streak of five straight games without scoring at least 30 points in the first half by Notre Dame. Their 33 first-half points in their 76-74 loss to Florida State on Jan. 21 was the last time the Irish hit that mark in the opening 20 minutes of a game.
Pat Connaughton was 1 for 6 to start the game before his jumper from the right elbow gave the Irish a 48-45 lead with 8:03 remaining. The Irish pushed their lead to 54-47 with 2:43 to play, but committed three straight turnovers in the last 1:40 of regulation to see Clemson tie the game at 54 after Rod Hall hit 1 of 2 free throws with 4.6 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
“Nothing’s been very easy this year,” said Brey. “So, you almost expect to have some rugged stuff.”
Connaughton, who scored 13 points, was 2 for 9 from the floor before his three-point play with 24.9 seconds left in the first overtime put the Irish up 60-56. Hall’s layup with 10.2 seconds brought the Tigers within two points and then Landry Nnoko stole the in-bound pass and hit two free throws after being fouled by Connaughton to tie the game 60-60 and send it to a second overtime.
“We needed to win this game,” said Brey. “I mean, we really needed to win this game. We’d have been really struggling if we didn’t win this game.”
McDaniel, who had career-highs of 30 points and 14 rebounds, gave Clemson the lead, its first since midway through the first half, with a bucket to start the second OT period. Steve Vasturia followed that with a 3 to make it 63-62 Irish. McDaniel hit another bucket for another one-point Tiger lead, but Vasturia followed with another trey to make it 66-64 Notre Dame. Free throws by Connaughton put the game away.
Notre Dame has now won six straight and nine of its last 10 overtime games. It was the third overtime game the Irish have played this season and their second in the last 10 days. Tuesday’s victory marked ND’s first multiple-overtime win since the five-overtime win over Louisville on Feb. 9, 2013.