Georgia Tech next ACC road test for Notre Dame
Manuel De Jesus | Friday, January 27, 2017
After suffering its largest defeat of the season against No. 12 Virginia, No. 14 Notre Dame travels to Atlanta on Saturday to take on Georgia Tech.
Looking at this matchup in the preseason, it wouldn’t have been far-fetched to predict this was one of the few sure-fire wins the Irish (17-4, ACC 6-2) could circle on its schedule. In the ACC preseason rankings, the Yellow Jackets (12-8, ACC 4-4) were predicted to finish 14th of 15 teams in the ACC, but they have played as well as some of the top squads in the conference.
Georgia Tech upset No. 9 North Carolina in a 75-63 victory at home on New Year’s Eve. Georgia Tech took down No. 6 Florida State with ease, winning 78-56 Wednesday, again in Atlanta. At the end of the first half, the Yellow Jackets led 41-15. Freshman guard Josh Okogie and junior center Ben Lammers led the way for Georgia Tech in both upsets. Okogie scored 26 against the Tar Heels and 35 against the Seminoles. Lammers recorded 11 and 18, respectively, while also hauling in 11 rebounds in each game.
When appearing on the Mike Brey Radio Show on Thursday night, Irish head coach Mike Brey said he wasn’t really surprised with the results. He said he has always emphasized that anyone can win when it comes to ACC basketball, and after a loss to Virginia, he noted how critical it is to move on mentally and focus on the road game against Georgia Tech.
“It’s just like when we were in the midst of winning five in a row,” Brey said. “We turn the page quickly on wins to get prepared for the next one, and in the heat of battle in the regular season and the league it is this year, you gotta move on quick. Now we play a Georgia Tech team that just bumped Florida State. They got them down 30. They’re very confident at home, and they beat North Carolina, so yet another example of this league being, by far, the best and deepest league in college basketball.”
Brey recognizes that if it replicates its Tuesday night performance against Georgia Tech, Notre Dame will struggle to walk away with their seventh conference win. The Irish shot just 16.7 percent from beyond the arc, and they were outrebounded 38-22. While junior forward Bonzie Colson carried his weight on the offensive end by scoring a team-high 20 points, he struggled to help on the boards with just three rebounds. Colson leads the team in rebounds, averaging nearly 11 per game.
“It was a weird night for Bonz that he didn’t get more defensive rebounds,” Brey said. “He usually closes that gap for us, but I have a feeling he’ll bounce back, and I haven’t watched a lot of Georgia Tech. Do we play bigger? You know, we came back and tried to play a little zone [against Virginia] and play bigger with [junior forward Martinas Geben] in there. All things we’ll look at, but I’d like to see us get into a pretty good offensive rhythm on the road, which we’ve been able to do. We’ve gotten out of the gate on the road, so maybe we can find ourselves again on the road Saturday.”
The Irish have already been able to attack well offensively against a zone defense, which is what the Yellow Jackets will show Saturday. Against Syracuse this past Saturday, the Irish had no issues finding their rhythm: Notre Dame connected on 11 3-pointers, recorded 20 assists and outrebounded the Orange, 39-28.
Brey is hoping the Irish can replicate that success against the Orange to rebound from Tuesday’s offensive struggles.
“We need to really play like [Georgia Tech] and let it rip and be loose,” Brey said. “Especially on the road. That’s how we play. We’ve played like that on the road. I really need that demeanor back again on Saturday, and we’ve got to go for it. We can’t play safe, but we’re going to have to defend, and they’re gonna play probably six different zone defenses against us. … I hope we can attack the zone looks they give us like we did against Syracuse.”
Notre Dame tips off against Georgia Tech on Saturday at noon at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta.