SOUTH BEND – After Notre Dame point guard Matt Farrell committed four turnovers in the first half Saturday against Clemson, he heard about it from an unhappy coach Mike Brey.
Farrell responded by scoring 12 of his 15 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left, to go with seven assists as No. 23 Notre Dame held off Clemson 75-70 to remain undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“He came in hot,” Farrell said of the halftime pep talk Brey gave the team. “Kicking over things, throwing things. I can’t repeat what he said, but he challenged us and we responded.”
V.J. Beachem tied his career high with 22 points for the Irish (14-2, 3-0) who have won five straight.
Beachem, the New Haven product, was coming off his worst game the season, a two-point effort against No. 9 Louisville on Wednesday in which he only attempted three shots, but he had 11 points by halftime to keep the Irish within seven.
“Louisville did a really good job of chasing me everywhere and face-guarding me,” Beachem said. “Clemson kind of lost me a little bit. I think that’s why I was able to get some more open looks.”
“If he’s not going in the first half, we may be down 25,” said Brey after his 700th game as a Division I head coach. “We were a mess.”
Bonzie Colson recorded his ACC-best 10th double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds for Notre Dame and Steve Vasturia added 14 points.
“It’s hard to guard them all,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “Beachem was a difference maker, he was outstanding in the first half.”
Jaron Blossomgame had 22 points and eight rebounds for Clemson (11-4, 1-2) and Gabe DeVoe knocked down a career-high four 3-pointers, all in the first half, while scoring 14 points.
A steal by Elijah Thomas and his jump hook at the other end gave Clemson a 66-64 lead with 3:04 to play, but Farrell answered with a 3-pointer.
Vasturia’s 3 from the corner with 1:46 left put the Irish up by two, but Blossomgame’s floater in the lane tied it at 70.
With a minute left, Colson tossed in a floater from the lane to give the Irish the lead for good.
Beachem hit two 3s in an 11-2 run early in the second half that gave the Irish a 46-45 advantage, as the lead changed hands 11 times in the second half.
“Beachem made some really tough shots,” Brownell said. “That’s what you get when you play Notre Dame. They just have so many weapons.”
After Clemson scored the first 10 points of the game, Brey went to a four-guard lineup, and the Irish began to hit from deep. Their first six field goals were all 3-pointers and a 17-2 run gave them a five-point lead just over 9 minutes in. Notre Dame finished 15 of 32 from 3-point range.
“We didn’t get off to a great start, but when it counted, we delivered,” Brey said.