No. 23 Notre Dame finishes homestand vs. Clemson

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Time for No. 23 Notre Dame to get greedy in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

That’s how quickly everything changes when league play commences.

Eight days ago, Irish coach Mike Brey, who will be coaching in career game No. 700 Saturday against Clemson (11-3, 1-1 ACC), wished only for a one-game win streak when ACC play commenced in a New Year’s Eve game at Pittsburgh.

Notre Dame (13-2, 2-0) won that one by one in overtime. Four days later, the Irish moved to 2-0 in league play for the second time in three seasons with a seven-point home victory over No. 9 Louisville.

Notre Dame plays its final league home game Saturday before a two-week break and three-straight on the road. Getting this one would be a late Christmas bonus for Brey.

“Let’s be greedy, man,” Brey said. “If we can get to 3-0 in this league and then we get a little break before we go on the road, it would be unbelievable.”

Especially given how wacky ACC play already has been barely a week in. Only two of the 15 league teams are undefeated in conference play — Notre Dame and No. 12 Florida State. Duke lost. Louisville lost. Twice. North Carolina lost. Virginia lost. Twice.

Back in mid-November, Brey talked of the opportunity for his team to make a move when it traveled to Brooklyn and won games against Colorado and Northwestern to win the Legends Classic championship. The Irish had a chance to make a national move, then made one. This week, Brey talked of another chance to make a move. The opportunity to start 3-0 before a crusher league schedule kicks in is there.

“We get the third one, we’ve made a heck of a move here in early January,” he said.

It won’t be easy. Nothing in league play will be this season. And certainly not against Clemson, which is annually a difficult matchup for Notre Dame.

The teams met four previous times — all as ACC colleagues — with those four games decided by a total of 26 points. Jaron Blossomgame is a matchup concern. So is Donte Grantham.

“We respect everybody we play, but we worry about us,” said Notre Dame point guard Matt Farrell. “We’re not going to change; we’re going to do what we do.”

Clemson is good, and likely a bit ornery after letting North Carolina off the hook early in the week back at Littlejohn Coliseum. With the game tied and five seconds remaining, the Tigers had a chance to start 2-0 in league play with guard Avry Holmes going to the free throw line. But Holmes missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Tar Heels took control in overtime.

Clemson already won on the road in league play. The Tigers opened at Wake Forest, where they erased a 13-point deficit. For coach Brad Brownell, it’s about putting a full 40 minutes together.

The Tigers were really good in the first half against Carolina. They moved the ball. Shared it. Made shots. Defended. They did too little of that in the second half to win.

Can they be better in game situations on the road in league play?

“I like our team,” Brownell said. “It’s a great league. I like the way we’re playing and competing.

Nothing will be easy. Brownell expects nothing less.

“Another Top 25 team is par for the (ACC) course,” he said.