CLEMSON — A second-half swoon at Miami over the weekend made all the difference between a big game Tuesday night and what would have been a gargantuan night at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Clemson (14-9, 6-5 ACC) was in position to tack on a third straight road triumph, and fifth straight win in conference play, with a 28-27 lead early in the second half at Miami. But the herky-jerky Hurricanes, whom have won at Duke by 16 and lost to visiting Georgia Tech by 20, rode a 13-0 string to knock off Clemson in what was considered a mini-bubble game as far as NCAA tournament hopes are concerned.
Before the Miami loss, ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi listed Clemson as the fourth team left out of his projected NCAA tournament field of 68 qualifiers.
The Tigers can’t afford to dwell on missed opportunites with No. 10 Notre Dame (21-4, 9-3) making its first-ever trip to Littlejohn Coliseum on Tuesday.
Last year, Clemson lost 68-64 in double overtime, wasting K.J. McDaniels’ 30-point, 13-rebound, six-block performance in South Bend, Ind. The Irish are even stronger this season, boasting the nation’s No. 2-most efficient offense with the return of senior guard Jerian Grant (16.8 points per game.)
This is the Tigers’ second of three two-day turnarounds in their league schedule; previously, they followed a Saturday win over Syracuse with a loss to Florida State, both at home.
The track record spells doom, or perhaps opportunity, for Clemson vs. the 10th-ranked Irish: the Tigers are 0-12 under head coach Brad Brownell against top-10 opponents. Only three of those 12 defeats were at home: the spring of 2012 vs. No. 6 Duke by seven points, the fall of 2012 vs. No. 8 Arizona by 12 points and 2013 vs. Miami by two points.
Clemson’s last triumph vs. a top-10 team was emphatic, a 74-47 drubbing of No. 4 Duke on Feb. 4, 2009.
To knock off Notre Dame, which averages 80 points per game, Clemson will need more consistency from its veterans. Senior guards Rod Hall and Damarcus Harrison and junior center Landry Nnoko made just 4-of-26 shots combined in the Sunday loss at Miami.
In 11 conference games, Hall is shooting .313, Harrison .295 and Nnoko .392 from the floor. All three ACC clips are near 10 percent lower than their respective overall percentages.
“I think some of it’s a little bit of confidence with Damarcus and Landry,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “We’re kind of in one of those little doldrums with them where they’re not feeling as comfortable, and sometimes you just have to play through that.”
Offensively, the Tigers will turn to sophomore forward Jaron Blossomgame (12.8 points per game) and freshman swingman Donte Grantham (9.8 points), who have led Clemson in scoring eight of its 11 ACC contests. Junior guard Jordan Roper, in the starting lineup the past five games, is averaging 15.4 points during that stretch.