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

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Clarke's flourish lifts Va Tech over reeling Irish 80-75
Virginia Tech's Chris Clarke (15) grabs a rebound next to teammate Nickeil Alexander-Walker (4) and Notre Dame's Martinas Geben (23) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Chris Clarke scored six straight points in the final 23 seconds as Virginia Tech fought off a ferocious charge by Notre Dame for an 80-75 Atlantic Coast Conference road victory Saturday night.

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

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.

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.

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.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia Tech: Tech bumped up its NCAA Tournament chances, though it is still January. Per an ESPN BPI index, the Hokies have a 60 percent chance to make the field. If they’d lost, they would’ve been down to 37 percent.

Notre Dame: Once sailing at 13-3 overall, 3-0 in the ACC, with a Maui Invitational title tucked away, the injury-plagued Irish have become a bubble team at best with all their fallen players. Per that same index, they dropped to 44 percent with their latest loss. A win would have elevated them to 71 percent.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: The Hokies head to Boston College on Wednesday in another battle of teams scrapping for NCAA Tourney consideration.

Notre Dame: It’s a rapid turnaround for the Irish as they visit No. 4 Duke on Monday, the first of three Saturday/Monday scenarios that each involve travel for ND over four weeks.

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