Irish return to Purcell for Georgia Tech rematch
Mike Monaco | Tuesday, February 25, 2014
It’s been six-and-a-half weeks since Notre Dame played its first-ever ACC road contest — against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
The Irish, who entered the contest 10-5 overall and 1-1 in conference play, fell 74-69 to the Yellow Jackets, the first defeat in a stretch of five losses in six games to close out January.
Notre Dame (14-14, 5-10 ACC) will battle Georgia Tech (13-14, 4-10) in the rematch Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion.
“I think we have a little bit better identity this month than we did in January,” Irish coach Mike Brey said during a teleconference Monday. “And we’re still trying to develop that to get ready to go to Greensboro, [N.C.] and the ACC tournament.”
In the Jan. 11 meeting between the two teams, the Yellow Jackets grabbed a 13-point second-half lead, but the Irish battled back and led 68-67 with 1:15 remaining. Georgia Tech, however, closed the game on a 7-1 run en route to the victory. Senior guard Trae Golden powered the Yellow Jackets with 20 points, including a 3-pointer to vault Georgia Tech in front, 70-68, with 45 seconds remaining.
Golden leads the Yellow Jackets with 13.1 points per game. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder missed most of five games with a still-lingering groin injury before returning to play 33 minutes and net a game-high 17 points in a 63-55 loss to Clemson on Saturday.
“He has to play different than he did before, meaning the explosiveness at times isn’t there,” Yellow Jackets coach Brian Gregory said to reporters in Atlanta on Monday. “It shows up in the open court and it shows up in him exploding off of ball screens and driving the ball. So he’s got to play a little different.”
Golden took more jump shots, Gregory said, in the loss to the Tigers. The defeat capped off a 1-3 homestand for the Yellow Jackets, who now begin a three-game road trip in seven days.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, returns to Purcell Pavilion for its first home game in two weeks. The Irish dropped the final two games of their taxing three-game road stretch, most recently losing to No. 12 Virginia, 70-49, on Saturday.
“We ran into a heck of a basketball team, especially the last 10 minutes, in Charlottesville, [Va.], Saturday,” Brey said. “I really loved how we were playing for about 30, 31 minutes. Again, I’m just so impressed with Virginia. They’ve been a real tough matchup for us in both games. There’s a clear reason why they’re in sole possession of first place.”
With a .500 record and three games remaining in the regular season, Brey admitted Notre Dame has different expectations than in past years when the standard was a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Brey noted a tournament berth is “a real uphill battle for us right now,” but praised the tone-setting ability of his seniors and the progression of the freshmen.
“You’ve seen a couple times in the last couple games, we’ve had three freshmen and two sophomores on the floor the last two games playing together,” Brey said. “That’s by design. I’ve kind of gotten to that substitution-wise to take a look at that. And they’ve delivered for us.
“But it is new. It’s a different kind of mentality. We’re not on the bubble or we’re not playing for a seed or we’re not a lock. It’s all kind of new to us. I think what you have to do though is coach for Greensboro — try to find an identity to do something in Greensboro. That’s kind of how we’ve approached it.”
Notre Dame tips off against Georgia Tech at Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday at 7 p.m.