SOUTH BEND – Steve Vasturia made sure Notre Dame didn’t let Clemson rally back and force a third overtime.
The Irish led most of the way against the Tigers on Tuesday night, going up by as many as nine points early in the second half.
They then led by seven points with just under 3 minutes remaining in regulation and by four with 24 seconds left in the first overtime before Vasturia hit two 3-pointers in the second overtime to help Notre Dame pull out the 68-64 victory.
We had it won a couple times, we handed it back a couple times, but found a way to win it, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell blamed his team’s offensive struggles.
We’re just not as talented offensively as we need to be. We’re very inconsistent shooting, he said.
Vasturia hit the first 3 to give the Irish a 63-62 lead early then added a second with 62 seconds left that gave Notre Dame a 66-64 lead.
Pat Connaughton then added a pair of free throws to help the Irish overcome a career-high 30 points and 14 rebounds by Clemson’s K.J. McDaniels.
Vasturia said he was open because the Tigers were focusing on Eric Atkins, who hit a game-winning 3-pointer in overtime against Boston College 10 days earlier.
A lot of teams are going to key on Eric just by the way he scores and creates. If we have open looks, we’re expected to shoot them and we’re confident we can make them, he said.
Atkins said Vasturia, who was 1 of 5 from the field and 0 of 3 from behind the arc heading into the second overtime, showed a lot of confidence.
He’s not scared of the moment and I love that about him, he said.
McDaniels said the baskets by Vasturia were key
He hit some big shots, and they were hard to cover. In the end, they came up with some clutch shots, he said.
The Irish (13-12, 4-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) avoided falling below .500 for the first time this late in the season since finishing 14-16 during the 1998-99 season in John MacLeod’s last year as coach.
Brey said the victory was huge for the struggling Irish.
We would have been really struggling if we didn’t win this game, he said.
Clemson (15-8, 6-5) lost back-to-back games for just the second time this season.
McDaniels said the Tigers need to show the same intensity at the beginning of the game as they did at the end.
We’re going to learn from this, he said.
Both teams squandered chances to win the game earlier.
Rod Hall could have given the Tigers, playing on only a day’s rest after losing at Syracuse on Sunday, a one-point lead with 4.6 seconds left, but missed the first of two free throws, sending the game into overtime.
The Irish have now won nine of their last 10 overtime games.