March 06, 2015

It's hard to imagine where Notre Dame would be without seniors Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, who have the 12th-ranked Fighting Irish in good shape heading into next week's ACC tournament.

Grant and Connaughton are set to be honored as they make their final appearances in front of the home crowd in Saturday's regular-season finale against Clemson.

Notre Dame (25-5, 13-4) has wrapped up a double-bye in the conference tournament, and it secured the third seed with Wednesday's 71-59 win at No. 16 Louisville. The Irish, who suffered a surprising 65-60 loss to Syracuse in their previous game Feb. 24, shot 53.5 percent for the highest mark allowed by the Cardinals this season.

Demetrius Jackson led the way with 21 points for his highest total in 18 games, and freshman Bonzie Colson stayed hot with a season-best 17. The Irish made their final seven shots to pull away despite a combined two second-half points from Grant and Connaughton.

"Everybody really contributed, we've got a heck of a group. I'm glad we're still hungry even though we have the double-bye locked up," coach Mike Brey said. "I was a little worried about that. Certainly we will be hungry Saturday because we want to send the seniors out the right way."

Grant has been outstanding with a team-leading 16.7 points and conference-best 6.6 assists per game. Connaughton is averaging 12.8 points to rank second on the squad, and he's eighth in the league with 7.9 rebounds per game.

"(Those guys) have meant so much to our basketball program, and so much this year to this team and our resurgence. Their leadership has been flat-out fabulous," Brey said. "So I'm anxious because I want them to win on senior day ... but we play a Clemson team that we had a very hard time beating at Clemson. They guard you and they grind you on offense, so our mental and physical toughness will really be tested."

The Irish are 2-0 against the Tigers, but both victories have been hard-earned. Notre Dame needed double overtime to win 68-64 at home last Feb. 11, and it squeaked out a 60-58 road victory Feb. 10 as Grant scored 22 and Connaughton added 14.

Clemson (16-13, 8-9) is looking to avoid a sixth loss in eight games after falling 66-61 to North Carolina State on Tuesday. Little-used freshman Gabe DeVoe had a season-high 18 points in six minutes off the bench, but it wasn't enough as the Tigers shot 29.9 percent.

DeVoe finished 3 of 7 from 3-point range while the rest of the team went 2 for 13.

"We never really got stops, so we never got into transition to get an easy basket or two," coach Brad Brownell said. "Sometimes, you just need an easy basket or two so you can take a deep breath. ... We just don't shoot it very well."

Clemson is shooting 40.9 percent to rank 14th in the league, while Notre Dame is second in the country at 50.9 percent. Colson is averaging 16.3 points over the last three games on 19 of 24 from the floor.

Jaron Blossomgame leads the Tigers with 12.8 points per game, but he's the only one averaging double figures. He matched a season low with six points on 2-of-12 shooting Tuesday.

Clemson has lost 53 of its last 54 road matchups against ranked teams, including its last 19 by an average of 14.3 points. The Tigers have dropped five straight overall against Top 25 opponents since beating No. 18 Arkansas 68-65 in overtime Dec. 7.

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