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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Irish set to wrap up regular season in Clemson

After losing their last seven games, the Notre Dame men’s basketball team shocked the world and impressed fans by beating No. 25 Pitt 88-81 Wednesday night in coach Mike Brey’s last game in Purcell Pavilion. The 11-19 overall Irish now travel to South Carolina to play against Clemson.

Clemson has had a pretty strong season so far. They went 21-9 in regular season games and 13-6 in ACC play. Two of their best performances so far have been in the double-overtime victory over Penn State and their win over Pitt in January. Like Notre Dame, they lost both games against the ACC’s two highest-ranked teams, Virginia and Miami.

In their most recent game, the Tigers struggled to clean up some sloppy play against Virginia. Clemson played an undisciplined game, committing 17 fouls to the Cavaliers’ 10. That ended up being one of the key differences in the game, as Clemson got only four points from the foul line whereas Virginia got 15. Other than that, both teams were pretty even on scoring, both shooting just over 40% from the field. The Tigers, however, had a slight edge in both three-point volume and percentage.

It was a very similar situation when Notre Dame played Virginia. They had nearly identical overall and three-point percentages. Free throws made all the difference in the two-point loss. 

Against Pitt, Notre Dame shot exceptionally well. Except for the uncharacteristically high number of fouls for both teams, many stats were very similar to other games against tougher opponents. That is not something the Irish should take with them to Clemson and the ACC Tournament. Against Pitt, the Irish found a way to win, holding a big lead for most of the contest that allowed them to control the game.

It seems pretty reasonable to say that Saturday’s game will come down to details. Notre Dame seems to play at the level of whatever opponent they are facing, as evidenced by their performances against strong teams like Virginia and Pitt and in games against lesser opponents like Boston College and Florida State.

The Irish need to take all of the energy and passion they discovered Wednesday night with them to their final regular season game. Their starting five has a solid amount of offensive talent and has been able to play high-level defense at times this season. They just need to put it all together with more consistency to make games like Wednesday’s less of an outlier.

This season obviously did not go the way anyone thought it would. But all is not lost. The win against Pitt was not an accident. It shows that there is more to this Irish team than its overall record. If they can somehow turn the corner and keep battling, perhaps there is an ACC Tournament run left in Brey and this veteran group.

Tipoff is set for Saturday at 8 p.m.