Georgia Tech and Notre Dame Exhibit Holes in Saturday Match-up

Posted by CD Bradley on January 12th, 2014

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. When the schedules initially came out, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech expected to look very different in their third ACC game than they did on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta. For the Irish, things started to devolve in the preseason with the redshirt of Cameron Biedscheid, who then announced his transfer to Missouri after Christmas. Then Jerian Grant, a preseason All-ACC selection who led the Irish in points, assists, and steals, was lost for the season due to an academic issue. Then on Saturday, frontcourt reserve Tom Knight didn’t make the trip to Atlanta due to a sprained ankle.

Georgia Tech's defense on Eric Atkins and his Notre Dame teammates (Getty)

Georgia Tech’s defense on Eric Atkins and his Notre Dame teammates were crucial in Saturday’s win. (Getty)

Georgia Tech has health issues of its own. First freshman point guard Travis Jorgenson tore his ACL in the Yellow Jackets’ fourth game. Then sophomore Robert Carter, who was averaging 10.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game (with a 29.8 defensive rebounding percentage, sixth best in the country), suffered a torn meniscus. Sophomore point guard Solomon Poole, the team’s top backcourt reserve, missed the game on Saturday with a migraine. As Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory put it, “It was two teams who were trying to re-discover themselves with guys out.”

Georgia Tech seemed well ahead of the Irish in that process early, jumping out to a 17-4 lead. Senior Garrick Sherman, Notre Dame’s leading rebounder (and scorer in Grant’s absence), had a nightmarish first half, missing all eight of shots in the paint, including two which were blocked. Notre Dame cut the lead to four at the half, 39-35, but came out slow in the second half and trailed 54-39 with just under 14 minutes left in the game. “We just have to be better getting out of the gate on the road and getting out of the gate in the second half,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “When you’re digging out of those holes, it’s exhausting. Sometimes you almost don’t deserve to win the game because of how you started the game and how you started the half.”

But dig they did. Brey switched to a zone defense which baffled the Yellow Jackets, and shots started to fall, leading to an 18-3 run that squared the game at 57-57. “We were searching for 30 minutes on who we were, how to play,” Brey said. “We kind of found it for the last 10 minutes, and you thought it was going to be enough.” It wasn’t, as Georgia Tech pulled itself together, got a key three-pointer from Trae Golden (Tech’s top scorer with 20) and went 4-of-4 from the line in the last minute to seal the 74-69 win. While Gregory was obviously pleased with the comeback win, he said with a young team that, “Our biggest challenge, though, is sustaining. Did we learn from that? The next time we have to go back and think, ‘Last time that happened, do we remember that’? Then you have to fight back and get through it. That consistency — that would be a big step for us.”

Both teams have major holes to fill going forward, and Tech had greater success at that Saturday. Without Carter, the Jackets’ starting power forward and leading rebounder, they managed to outrebound the Irish by one and force Sherman into 6-of-18 shooting. On the other side, without its leading scorer and second-best shooter in Grant, Notre Dame struggled offensively; they managed fewer than a point per possession and shot their third-lowest percentage of the season. Both teams now stand at 10-6 overall and 1-2 in the ACC, and appear to be on the wrong side of the bubble with lots of holes to fill in the midst of ACC play.

CD Bradley (69 Posts)

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