ND looks to avoid misstep against Georgia Tech
Marek Mazurek | Friday, February 19, 2016
As the Irish prepare to face Georgia Tech on Saturday night, they find themselves in the middle of a slugfest for the ACC regular season title.
No. 19 Notre Dame (18-7, 9-4) currently sits tied for fourth in the conference behind No. 5 North Carolina, No. 11 Miami and No. 7 Virginia. Tied with No. 20 Duke and No. 18 Louisville, the Irish are among six teams within one game of the conference’s top spot. Irish head coach Mike Brey said he expects the end of the regular season to be an exciting one.
“With what happened in Chapel Hill [on Wednesday] night, this is going to be an interesting stretch run,” Brey said. “I love the position we’re in. I think it’s exciting for our team, and it’s exciting for our fans.”
Even though the team has momentum after beating the Cardinals last Saturday, the Irish cannot afford to take any game lightly, especially on the road, Brey said.
“I think Georgia Tech’s going to be very confident, especially [with] how they played and how they shot the ball in Tallahassee last night,” Brey said. “And it’s going to be a dogfight. I would love to see us scratch out a road win. It’ll be a hard one to get. Records don’t mean much in this league … especially when you’re playing on the road.”
This will be the second meeting of the year between the two teams, as the Irish notched a 72-64 victory over the Yellow Jackets on Jan. 13 to spark a four-game winning streak, which included a road win over the Blue Devils (20-6, 9-4 ACC).
This year, the Irish are 3-3 on the road in conference play, and their next three games will be away from Purcell Pavilion. Brey said the key for the team’s success on the road will be strong play from junior guards Steve Vasturia and Demetrius Jackson.
“I think what really helps you, not only overall in the ACC, [but on the road] is to have great guard play,” Brey said. “And these last two seasons, we’ve been blessed with great guard play, and that helps you steal road wins.”
In Notre Dame’s 71-66 win over the Cardinals, Jackson and Vasturia provided the Irish with just that. Jackson scored a career-high 27 points, and Vasturia added 20 of his own.
Brey also praised the physical presence sophomore forward Bonzie Colson and senior forward Zach Auguste have brought to the team.
“It really starts in [Auguste and Colson’s] rebounding and how physical they’ve been in the paint,” Brey said. “I think that’s helped them play better on the offensive end, and they’re attacking the basket on the other side, but I think it’s really started with how aggressive and how physical they are [rebounding] on both ends.”
After their game with the Yellow Jackets (14-12, 4-9 ACC), the Irish travel to Wake Forest and Florida State before hosting Miami and North Carolina State to end the season. As the final stretch approaches, Brey said he has confidence in his nucleus to perform well in key moments.
“We’ve kind of found a new level of mental and physical toughness, and with that confidence in the last week, you want to keep it moving forward,” Brey said. “I think it’s a group that found itself recently, and it comes at a great time. You want to keep them confident, you want to keep them hungry, and you want to keep them really healthy, as fresh as possible physically and mentally.”
“We would be thrilled to get [a] road win in Atlanta and inch our way to a 10th league [win] and then do our part and see what everybody else does.”
Notre Dame is slated to tip off against Georgia Tech at McCamish Pavilion on Saturday at 8 p.m.