Hot ACC teams square off as Notre Dame hosts Clemson
Two of the hottest teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference are set to collide Wednesday night when Notre Dame plays host to Clemson at South Bend, Ind.
The Fighting Irish (9-5, 3-1 ACC) have won five games in a row and are 6-0 at home this season; Clemson (10-5, 2-2) has won five of its last six, including road victories at Virginia and NC State.
“When I glance at their stats, I’m taken back by the shooting percentages, especially their 3-point percentage,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “(Clemson coach) Brad (Brownell) has always been a defensive guy and has done a fabulous job. He can really coach defense.
“But now I’m looking and on the other end of the floor they’re really efficient offensively, handle the ball well, and they’ve got big guys like (P.J.) Hall who can step out away from the bucket and make shots. They’re older, they know how to play, they’ve won on the road — those are all the things that will keep me up at night.”
Clemson, which was picked for an 11th-place finish in the ACC preseason poll, leads the ACC in 3-point shooting and ranks third nationally at 40.9 percent.
Notre Dame leads the ACC in 3-point field goals per game (9.14), making 36.5 percent.
“Everywhere you look they’ve got an older guy, an experienced player,” Brownell said of the Fighting Irish, who are tied for third in the ACC after being tabbed as an eighth-place team in the preseason. “Those guys are so poised and they’ve really hit their stride. They’re playing great basketball now.
“You start watching their film from the last two weeks and they look considerably more comfortable.”
Senior Dane Goodwin leads Notre Dame in scoring at 15.0 points per game, but the difference for the team lately has been the emergence of freshman Blake Wesley.
Wesley ranks second on the team in scoring at 14.3 and had 22 to lead the Irish in their most recent win, a 72-68 overtime decision at Georgia Tech on Saturday.
“He’s super talented, incredibly athletic, fast, really a tough cover,” Brownell said. “He’s given them a jolt of athleticism. He’s a fantastic freshman. Athletically he looks like a junior and the confidence he plays with is tremendous. He’s playing with other good players who are older and that helps him, too.”
Clemson meanwhile is thriving with a largely veteran lineup as well, although Hall – who is just a sophomore — has become the team’s most reliable scorer, having hit double figures in 14 straight games, including 20 in Saturday’s 70-65 win at NC State.
“The better he’s played, the more confidently our team around him has gotten with P.J. and throwing him the ball and watching him make plays,” Brownell said.
–Field Level Media