CLEMSON - Notre Dame coach Mike Brey believes his program had been perfect against Clemson because during the crucial stretches, it was the Fighting Irish who made the biggest plays.
"Tonight, they made plays," Brey said after No. 20 Clemson beat Notre Dame for the first time, 67-58 on Saturday.
Gabe DeVoe had 17 points including a critical 3-pointer with 3:18 left to keep the Tigers out front. Shelton Mitchell had 10 of the Tigers' final 20 points after Notre Dame cut an 11-point deficit to 47-46, and freshman Amir Simms hit a 3 from the right corner with just over a minute left that proved the winning blow for the Tigers (16-3, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference).
The victory came after an awful-looking injury to Clemson captain Donte Grantham, whose right knee buckled after getting fouled from behind.
Grantham, a 6-foot-8 senior who averages 14 points a game, had 11 before going down with 10:54 left in the game. Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Grantham would have an MRI on the knee.
"He's had a very good year and we're hopeful it's not over for us," Brownell said.
Notre Dame (13-7, 3-4) lost its fourth straight. The Fighting Irish had a 5-0 all-time mark over the Tigers, and Clemson barely escaped continuing a second streak of failure in the same week: The Tigers fell to 0-59 all-time at Chapel Hill with their 87-78 loss to North Carolina on Tuesday night.
DeVoe said the Tigers learned from the slow start in that game to break out on top, 21-10 against the Fighting Irish. When things tightened up, he said Clemson's experience came through.
"Knowing how to finish games has really helped us out a lot this year," he said.
Mitchell and Marcquise Reed scored 12 points each for the Tigers. Mitchell caught fire after Notre Dame's rally with a 3-pointer and a driving layup to extend the lead to 52-46.
TJ Gibbs led Notre Dame with 18 points. Matt Farrell, who came in averaging 18 points per game, ended with six on 2-of-11 shooting.
"He had an off night shooting," Brownell said of Farrell. "But I'd like to think some of it was our defense."
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish dug themselves an early hole as Clemson made seven of its first eight shots. But Notre Dame answered, gradually cutting the lead to 31-30 as it tightened up the defense and found its shooting touch. ... Notre Dame shot just two free throws.
Clemson: When the Tigers are hitting shots, they're tough to beat. Unfortunately for Clemson, it doesn't always happen that way. DeVoe, Reed and Grantham all had open 3s early on as the Tigers forged a double-digit lead. Clemson went cold after that, making just four of its last 16 shots of the opening half to open the door for the Fighting Irish. Clemson did just enough to stay in front.
Brey believes his team's week off - the Irish don't play until next Saturday - will help them physically and mentally before trying to even their ACC record. "I think 4-4 (in the ACC) would feel like 8-0 to this group," Brey said.
Clemson great and NBA standout Wayne "Tree" Rollins was the featured former Tiger during a pregame alumni celebration. Rollins was recently inducted into the school's Ring of Honor, the highest athletic award the university gives out. Rollins played 18 years in the NBA, 11 with the Atlanta Hawks. Rollins finished his degree from Clemson two years ago.
Notre Dame faces Virginia Tech at home on Jan. 27.
Clemson visits No. 2 Virginia on Tuesday night.
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