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Men’s Basketball

Irish fall to Georgia Tech in first ACC road test

| Wednesday, January 15, 2014

ATLANTA – In their first road ACC matchup, the Irish were on the wrong side of things for very nearly the entire contest as their most recent comeback attempt came up just short. Notre Dame fell 74-69 to Georgia Tech on the hardwood of McCamish Pavilion.

Irish senior point guard Eric Atkins, pictured during Notre Dame's 73-69 loss to North Dakota State on Dec. 11 at Purcell Pavilion, led Notre Dame with 20 points on Saturday as the Irish fell to Georgia Tech, 74-69, at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta.John Ning

Irish senior point guard Eric Atkins, pictured during Notre Dame’s 73-69 loss to North Dakota State on Dec. 11 at Purcell Pavilion, led Notre Dame with 20 points on Saturday as the Irish fell to Georgia Tech, 74-69, at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta.

After working out from under its deficit and into a tie at 66 with roughly two minutes to play, Notre Dame (10-6, 1-2 ACC) took a 68-67 lead over Georgia Tech (10-6, 1-2) with a layup by graduate student Garrick Sherman. The Yellow Jackets answered with a 3-pointer from senior guard Trae Golden with 45 seconds remaining and would not relinquish their lead from there.

“He is a tough one to handle. When he took it, I’m thinking, ‘I wish he wasn’t taking this for them,’” Irish coach Mike Breysaid.

“We just couldn’t get a key stop at a key time, either out of a zone or man-to-man,” Brey added. “So, disappointing for us, but again, I’m proud of our group because we were searching for 30 minutes on who we were, how to play. We kind of found it the last 10 minutes and you thought it was going to be enough. Georgia Tech made really big shots and key free throws to win the game.”

A three-point attempt by Irish senior guard Eric Atkins, who released a lobbed runner from deep in an attempt to draw foul shots, missed the mark in the final ten seconds with the Irish down three.

“I saw their coach say, ‘foul him when he’s coming up the court,’” Atkins said. “So I knew they weren’t going to let me get to the three-point line. As soon as he put two hands on me I shot it. But they didn’t call it so it’s not a foul.”

The Irish struggled in the opening minutes, missing their first six attempts from the field and falling behind 6-0. Georgia Tech maintained control throughout most of the first half, building a lead as large as 13 points in the first period while hitting four of its first six 3-point attempts.

Notre Dame fought back to narrow the lead to two with eight minutes remaining in the opening half after a layup from freshman guard Demetrius Jackson followed a Georgia Tech turnover and brought the score to 25-23. Notre Dame had 11 points off six Yellow Jacket turnovers in the first half while giving the ball away only twice.

Georgia Tech quickly pulled away from Notre Dame, though, scoring eight straight points to extend its advantage to 33-23. Notre Dame used another run to enter the break trailing 39-35.

Atkins led the way for the visiting team throughout the half, scoring 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting. Junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton added eight points, four rebounds and three assists. Sherman came up empty in the points column, missing all eight of his shots from the field in the first half while bringing down a team-leading six rebounds.

“They really have a powerful, athletic front line and we just couldn’t get him going,” Brey said of Sherman. “In the second half he got into a better rhythm and that really helped us. But not only [Yellow Jackets center Daniel] Miller, but the other guys coming over. I think Miller initially is a big, physical presence. He’s a heck of a college basketball player.”

Georgia Tech came out strong to begin the second period, using an 8-1 run to extend its lead to 11. The Jackets worked their way to a 15-point advantage with 13:59 remaining in the game before Sherman and Irish sophomore forward Zach Auguste deposited back-to-back buckets to end a Notre Dame dry spell.

Those scores began a 13-0 Irish run, powered largely by Auguste and Sherman down low. After missing his first nine attempts from the field, Sherman drilled four consecutive shots to bring the Irish within two (54-52) with 9:09 remaining. A three-point play by Atkins tied the game at 57 with 6:48 to go, but Georgia Tech embarked on a short five-point run to regain the lead. Notre Dame answered right back and, after a three by Atkins and consecutive jumpers by sophomore forward Austin Burgett and Connaughton, took the lead for the first time at 64-62 with 3:56 left to play.

“It’s pretty remarkable the holes we’ve fought out of, but you put yourselves in those holes and you are not always going to come out of them,” Connaughton said. “So we need to start games like we finish games.”

Connaughton and Sherman both recorded double-doubles in the game, with 10 points and 10 rebounds and 13 points and 12 rebounds, respectively.

Notre Dame will resume action with another road game Wednesday at Maryland after getting a first look at being the away team in its new conference.

“That was a great atmosphere,” Brey said. “Playing on the road, and today was the ultimate. Their fans were great and their fans gave them probably the confidence to win the basketball game.”

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu

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About Joseph Monardo

Joseph Monardo is a senior from Atlanta studying International Economics. A participant in the Bologna study abroad program, Joseph likes pickup sports, fantasy baseball and trivia nights with his friends.

Contact Joseph