Clarke's flourish lifts Va Tech over reeling Irish 80-75

Photo courtesy: Virginia Tech
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Virginia Tech junior Chris Clarke "was as good as he's been," and never more than at crunch time.

Clarke scored six straight points in the final 23 seconds as Tech fought off a ferocious charge by Notre Dame for an 80-75 Atlantic Coast Conference road victory Saturday night.

Justin Bibbs led the way with 20 points on 8-of-10 field-goal shooting with four 3-pointers, and Clarke added 12 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, as the Hokies (15-6, 4-4) backed up their 11-point victory over No. 10 North Carolina earlier in the week.

"I thought Bibbs was extraordinary, Chris was as good as he's been offensively, and I think Nickeil (Alexander-Walker, who had 11 points) is starting to help us in ways that are not exclusively offensively," Tech coach Buzz Williams said.

The Hokies, ranked third in the nation in field-goal percentage heading into the game, were crisp with their ball distribution and especially riddled Notre Dame from 3-point range, draining 14 of 25 shots outside the arc, their best effort in an ACC game this season.

"I thought we moved the ball really well," Williams said. "Nineteen assists on 29 baskets."

T.J. Gibbs poured in a career-high 27 points for the Irish (13-8, 3-5), who lost a fifth straight game for the first time in nine years.

John Mooney added a career-high 15 points and 11 rebounds. Rex Pflueger also scored 15, while Martinas Geben had all of his 10 in the second half to go with nine rebounds.

Notre Dame trailed 62-47 with 11 minutes to go, but closed to two points on three occasions down the stretch in front of a stoked home crowd.
The last was at 74-72, but Clarke got a tip-in with 23 seconds left, converted both ends of a one-and-one at 16 seconds and, for emphasis, had a breakaway slam dunk to clinch it at seven seconds.

"We emptied the tank. We gave ourselves an opportunity," Irish coach Mike Brey said. "(Tech's) really a gifted offensive team and they were shooting it great tonight. I'm disappointed, but I've got no beef with my guys, man, as long as they keep emptying the tank like that."

Nikola Djogo missed a 3-pointer at 51 seconds that could've given the Irish their first lead since 9-8. Pflueger hit a 3 as the clock ran out.