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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame falls to Georgia Tech on late layup; looks ahead to Duke

| Monday, January 30, 2017

The single-game road trip for the Irish ended in devastating fashion at Georgia Tech, as junior guard Matt Farrell missed a jumper with seven seconds remaining, giving the Yellow Jackets (13-8, 5-4 ACC) just enough time to race down the court to connect on a layup as time expired, putting the final score at 62-60.

The No. 14 Irish (17-5, 6-3 ACC) opened the game with perfect shooting from beyond the arc and harassing defense. The team forced six turnovers in the first ten minutes, leading to an early 19-9 lead. The game did not remain one-sided for long, as Notre Dame went cold and Georgia Tech closed the half with a 26-12 run.

The Irish could not hold the Yellow Jackets to one possession, giving up eight offensive rebounds in the half. Irish head coach Mike Brey said that giving up second-chance points was the biggest factor in the poor finish to the half.

“That killed us in the first half,” Brey said. “We did a better job of not giving them second shots in the second half.”

Irish junior forward Bonzie Colson shoots a jumper in Notre Dame’s 71-54 loss to Virginia on Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.Michael Yu | The Observer

Irish junior forward Bonzie Colson shoots a jumper in Notre Dame’s 71-54 loss to Virginia on Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.

Georgia Tech center Ben Lammers corralled four of those offensive boards, to go along with nine points in the half. Yellow Jacket guard Tadric Jackson tallied 14 points in the half to give his team the 35-31 lead going into halftime.

Another area where Georgia Teach outplayed Notre Dame was in bench points, with a 14-0 advantage in the half. The Irish played two more players than the Yellow Jackets, but were unable to receive any offensive production from their bench unit.

Despite a cold end to the first half, Notre Dame came out fast with a 6-0 run to take the lead. Georgia State, led by Lammers and Jackson, kept the game close, with neither team able to establish a lead of more than five points in the second half.

Senior forward Austin Torres played 16 minutes in the second period, as Brey tried whatever he could to slow down Lammers and keep Georgia Tech off the offensive glass.

Notre Dame regained momentum down the stretch when Farrell stole an outlet pass from Lammers and converted on a wide open 3-pointer. In the the end, a 5-2 run by the Irish to close the game was not enough to secure the victory. Brey credited Lammers with not allowing the Irish to establish any offensive rhythm in the game.

“It was hard for us to get any offensive rhythm, because it was hard to get anything at the basket,” Brey said. “Shot-blocking really changes the game and we had to adjust to that the whole night. We worked like heck to get 60 points tonight. We believe we are always going to have a chance and I love that our group gave us a chance tonight.”

Senior captain V.J. Beachem bounced back from a tough game against Virginia to score 23 points and collect four rebounds in the game. Junior forward Bonzie Colson added to his ACC-leading double-double count with another one on Saturday, with 13 points and 13 rebounds.

It was an out of character game from senior captain Steve Vasturia, who only was able to contribute five points on 1-7 shooting. The team only shot 40 percent from the field, and 63 percent from the free-throw line, with both Colson and Torres having empty trips to the charity stripe.

“We haven’t been able to get in our best offensive rhythms,” Brey said. “Defensively, scoring wise, we have done what we needed to do. It was a tough day for Steve, but it’s the ebb and flow of league play. I told the team that we finished the first half of league play 6-3, and now we are 0-0 again, focusing on the back nine.”

Despite the tough nature of the loss, Brey said his team has to refocus themselves for their game at home against Duke on Monday.

“We have had thrillers in this building, since we joined the ACC,” Brey said. “Can’t dwell on it much, because we got another game on Monday. I think [Duke] found themselves on Saturday. That was a big day for them, their backs were against the wall and they made big plays and big shots to win. I think they will come in here very confident.”

The Irish go into Monday 5-1 against No. 17 Duke since joining the ACC. The Blue Devils (16-5 4-4 ACC) come into Monday’s game following a pair of close games, losing to North Carolina State by two, and defeating Wake Forest by two on Saturday. Sophomore guard Luke Kennard scored 30 points in the second half against Wake Forest, exceeding his average of 20.4 points per game.

Duke has five players averaging more than 10 points per game, so the Irish will have to lock down multiple scoring threats throughout the game.

“Their perimeter guys and how they shoot it [will be the greatest challenge],” Brey said. “Kennard is so explosive, [Grayson] Allen driving it and him as their point guard, he gets them stuff. Where we have to switch quickly is we went from being able to jam up the lane against Georgia Tech who doesn’t shoot much, to a team that can light you up from out there.”

Beachem noted that the team is calm despite consecutive losses, pleased with their defensive output in the losses.

“Even though we couldn’t find our offense yesterday, we were really good defensively, we held [Georgia Tech] to 62 points,” Beachem said. “We still have a lot of good energy and we are not worried. We think we are fine and we are excited for tomorrow. It’s a great chance to bounce back. You never know what is going to happen on a given night. Taking care of business on our home court is going to be good for us.”

The Irish take on Duke at 7 p.m. Monday at Purcell Pavilion.

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About R.J. Stempak

R.J. Stempak is a sophomore computer science major who enjoys basketball.

Contact R.J.