Irish hold on late to avoid Jackets’ sting
Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, February 27, 2014
Georgia Tech died by the three.
After hitting 10 of its first 18 3-pointers, Georgia Tech (13-15, 4-11 ACC) missed two attempts in the final nine seconds as Notre Dame held on to win 65-62 at Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday night.
Yellow Jackets sophomore forward Robert Carter Jr. had two looks from the right wing with less than 10 seconds remaining but missed them both. The second came after an offensive rebound by sophomore guard Chris Bolden.
“When we didn’t rebound the first one and he got another one, I was thinking ‘We may deserve to get stuck here,’ but he missed that one too,” Irish coach Mike Brey said.
On the previous Irish possession, Irish junior forward Pat Connaughton missed a 3-pointer, but graduate student center Garrick Sherman ended up with the ball. The Yellow Jackets fouled Connaughton with 23.8 seconds remaining. Connaughton made both to give the Irish a three-point lead.
“Instead of coming up with that and being up one with the ball, now you’re down three,” Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory said. “You have to learn how to make those [plays], and you’ve got to finish it off.”
Notre Dame (15-14, 6-10) led by seven with 2:19 left after senior guard Eric Atkins’s 3-pointer, but Carter nailed two treys on the next two Yellow Jacket possessions to trim the Irish lead to one.
Sherman led the Irish with 21 points on 10-for-15 shooting and added five rebounds. He scored 29 points in the previous four games combined while shooting 33 percent (13-for-39) and dealing with a broken finger.
“It was good to break out of my mini-slump,” Sherman said. “I had three games where I was trying to figure out the whole finger issue and getting double-teamed each game, but it was nice to have a breakout tonight.”
Sherman has been double-teamed regularly by other ACC teams, but the Yellow Jackets did not help on him. Sherman said he did not see many double teams either when the two teams first met in Atlanta in January. He made just six of 18 shots and finished with 13 points as Yellow Jackets redshirt senior center Daniel Miller frustrated Sherman in the 74-69 loss.
“Sherman didn’t see a double team early in the game, and it’s almost like ‘Oh my God, I’ve got one guy,’” Brey said. “Miller really gave him problems in Atlanta, playing him just by himself.”
Gregory said Notre Dame did a good job of isolating Sherman in the post and making it difficult for Georgia Tech to double-team him.
“Anytime you give a post player three or four dribbles, he’s going to be hard to guard, especially someone as good as him, as big as him and with the experience and who he’s played against during his five years,” Gregory said.
This was just Sherman’s third game in double figures since Notre Dame’s first loss to Virginia on Jan. 28. The Cavaliers constantly doubled Sherman, who registered a season-low six field goal attempts, and has since become a pattern.
“They were hesitant to double, which was nice to actually have some space,” Sherman said. “When they did, I was ready for it. It helped me get in a rhythm, feel a little bit better out there because a lot of teams have been doubling me. It was nice to be able to go one-on-one.”
Georgia Tech shot 50 percent on 3-pointers but only shot 37 percent overall. Notre Dame, however, shot 47 percent from the field and hit just five of 20 3-pointers.
After the game was tied at seven 6:30 into the first half, Georgia Tech ripped off a 15-4 run to open an 11-point lead. But Notre Dame narrowed the margin to 27-19 before it closed the half on a 14-4 tear to go up by two at halftime.
“I thought the difference in the game was a six-minute stretch at the end of the first half,” Gregory said. “We didn’t execute well on offense, and that’s going to happen sometimes, and our defense wasn’t able to hold the fort during that stretch.”
During the run, the Irish were 6-for-6 from the field, not counting Atkins’s missed half-court shot at the buzzer. The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, missed three of their last four shots of the half.
“We finished the half with great momentum, and then we started the half with really good energy and momentum,” Brey said.
The Irish scored nine of the second half’s first 13 points to take a seven-point lead with 15:54 left in the game.
“We wanted to keep the same energy that we finished with,” Atkins said. “Starting with a stop in the second half was huge for us, and then we can get out and get going.”
Atkins finished the game with 17 points and four assists while playing 39 turnover-less minutes.
Carter led the Yellow Jackets with 19 points and 10 rebounds while leading scorer and senior guard Trae Golden was held scoreless. Golden was 0-for-10 from the field and 0-for-5 from behind the arc.
“Out of those 10 shots, I’d take eight of those every single day,” Gregory said.
The Irish will face former Big East opponent Pittsburgh on Saturday for Notre Dame’s Senior Day.
While the Irish sit far off the NCAA Tournament bubble, Brey said he still holds hope for the Irish.
“Stay tuned,” Brey said. “Crazier things have happened, especially if you win Saturday.”
Tipoff against the Panthers is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday.
Contact Matthew DeFranks at email@example.com