RALEIGH, N.C. — As bleak as it looked, No. 8 Notre Dame kept finding ways to cling to wishful thinking.
By the end, the Fighting Irish were clutching an 81-78 overtime victory against North Carolina State on Sunday night at PNC Arena.
“We had every reason to think we couldn’t get out of here, but we kept plugging,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We almost love coming from behind. We’re a confident bunch.”
Five Notre Dame players scored in overtime after the Irish dug out of an 18-point hole from the first half.
Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant scored 25 points as the Irish, who scurried to force overtime, kept alive one of the best starts in school history.
“Our backs were against the wall,” forward Pat Connaughton said. “The biggest thing to remember is it’s a long game. … Then it was a roller-coaster. They came back and hit us in the mouth again and we had to figure out how to respond. It says we’re really resilient.”
Guard Demetrius Jackson, forward V.J. Beachem and Connaughton added 11 points apiece for Notre Dame (19-2, 7-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). Irish forward Zach Auguste had 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Guard Trevor Lacey tallied 13 points to lead North Carolina State (13-8, 4-4). Forwards Kyle Washington and Caleb Martin had 12 points each, while guard Ralston Turner scored 11 and forward Cody Martin had 10.
Notre Dame led 80-76 on overtime baskets by Beachem and guard Steve Vasturia before the Irish were unable to corral a defensive rebound. Caleb Martin made two foul shots at the 47.1-second mark, pulling the Wolfpack within two.
Grant missed a 3-pointer at the other end, but Jackson rebounded and made the second of two free-throw attempts with 12.4 seconds to go.
Grant blocked Lacey’s 3-point try at the end. The Wolfpack was 2-for-9 from the field in overtime.
“They were good shots,” Lacey said. “The only bad stretch of shots I can think of was probably closing out regulation.”
North Carolina State couldn’t seal the deal in regulation.
After guard Anthony Barber’s layup pushed North Carolina State’s lead to 69-66, Vasturia’s 3-point attempt from the wing bounced away. Lacey hit two free throws with 1:16 to play.
Grant hit a foul shot with 1:12 left, but there wasn’t another scoring play until Jackson converted with 18.7 seconds left to make it 71-69.
North Carolina State turned the ball over on the inbounds pass.
“I got too much air under it,” Lacey said of his heave into the front court.
Beachem’s tip-in on Notre Dame’s third attempt tied the game with 1.8 seconds left. North Carolina State committed an offensive foul on the ensuing inbounds play, and then Grant’s heave from near midcourt hit off the rim, forcing the extra session in what became Notre Dame’s third overtime game of the season.
“They hit a couple of tough shots,” Lacey said. “We have to execute the offense better when they make tough shots.”
The Irish are 9-1 in their last 10 overtime games.
“They were just too good,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.
Notre Dame held a 43-34 rebounding edge, something that proved huge late in regulation.
“I was a little surprised we were able to get to the boards,” Brey said. “The second shots were really key and I didn’t know if we could get that against that front line.”
North Carolina State was trying to knock off a second Top 10 team this month, as the Wolfpack pulled off a stunner against Duke two weeks earlier.
Across the previous 12 games, the Wolfpack alternated between wins and losses. Sunday’s result didn’t fit that pattern because North Carolina State was coming off a loss at Miami.
Notre Dame is 4-0 in conference road games after never previously winning more than its first two road games in any conference season.
Notre Dame trimmed what had been an 18-point deficit to nine on the first possession of the second half. The Wolfpack led 45-38 less than two minutes into the second half.
“We had to make a case for why we’re the eighth-ranked team in the country,” Connaughton said.
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