Finishing a tough road stretch, Clemson had two options from their first-ever trip to Notre Dame Tuesday night.
Win, and not only stay in the hunt in the ACC, but also for a NCAA Tournament bid. Lose, and hope the home comfort in five of their next seven games is enough to rebound moving forward.
In a way that could be no more excruciating, the easier path wasn't in the cards, falling 68-64 in double overtime. After entering the five road-matchup-six-game stretch 13-4 and 4-1 in ACC play, they dropped to 15-8 and 6-5.
The decision was of no fault of Clemson junior forward K.J. McDaniels, who scored a career-high 30 points and added a career-best 14 rebounds (adding five blocks as well). He did have at least one shot he would take back though.
The Tigers' normally suffocating man-to-man defense switched mainly to a 1-3-1 zone up to the end of regulation, holding the Fighting Irish to two field goals in the final five minutes.
Starting the first bonus section 54-all, neither team had a field goal in the first three and a half minutes, but senior Notre Dame guard Eric Atkins changed that with a runner. As he did all night, McDaniels answered back and with 0.8 on the clock - Clemson had the ball after a timeout.
Setting a screen and coming out wide-open at the top of the key, McDaniels' 3-point attempt hit the back of the iron and the two teams were headed for double the overtime fun.
In the second bonus session, freshman Notre Dame guard Steve Vasturia hit two 3-pointers and junior forward Pat Cannaughton sunk two free throws in the final minute to pull away and then to seal the Tigers' loss respectively.
The game start-to-finish was reminiscent of the Clemson season so far, and more so lately.
The K.J. McDaniels show was in full effect, scoring 9 of Clemson's first 11 points, while Notre Dame struggled scoring early with leader Garrick Sherman on the bench after sustaining hand injury.
Outside of McDaniels, the Tigers really didn't take advantage, and that bit them later in the first half.
As the Irish tightened up on him, they also went on an 11-4 run, which was ended by McDaniels' trey. The 6-6 swingman was also a force on the defensive end, tallying as many blocks (4) as his teammates had field goals over 19 minutes into the game.
Trailing by five at the half, McDaniels shot 5-of-7 from the field, with 12 points while the rest were 5-of-19 in the full first 20 minutes. Those totals didn't improve by game's end - 13-of-24 for the Birmingham, Ala. native and 11-of-46 for his eight teammates.
The Tigers shot 34 percent from the field overall, with eight assists to eight turnovers.
Clemson returns home Saturday for a 12 p.m. tip with Virginia.