Shooting struggles continue for Irish in road loss to Georgia Tech
Joe Everett | Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Having struggled to make winning plays down the stretch in close ACC games this season leading up to its trip to Atlanta, Notre Dame experienced the same result Tuesday night against Georgia Tech, losing 63-61 inside McCamish Pavilion and falling to 1-5 in ACC play.
The Yellow Jackets (11-8, 3-3 ACC) got off to a fast start as the Irish (11-8, 1-5 ACC) couldn’t muster any early offense and fell behind 13-4 after six minutes of play. Notre Dame began to claw back, but Georgia Tech eventually regained a comfortable 20-14 lead with 6:21 left in the first half. With just 14 points in 14 minutes, the Irish were once again struggling to shoot the ball — a problem Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey identified after his team’s 77-73 loss to North Carolina State this past weekend, specifically in regards to freshman forward Nate Laszewski.
“He’s struggling. He’s really struggling,” Brey said of Laszewski during his postgame press conference Saturday. “That was on my mind as I walked off the court: ‘How do I help him?’ Because he’s given us some good stuff … [but] he’s come back to earth a little bit. Now, he’s had great looks that he hasn’t made … just flush it and be ready to play some 20-plus minutes on Tuesday, and if you’ve got open looks keep taking them.”
However, when the team needed a first-half spark against the Yellow Jackets on Tuesday night, Laszewski responded, scoring eight-straight points — including two 3-pointers — to close the Irish deficit to one point, 22-23. With Notre Dame back in the game, junior forward John Mooney carried the team for the rest of the half, scoring all eight of the team’s points and earning himself a double-double by halftime (14 points, 10 rebounds). Mooney led the Irish into the locker room with a 30-28 lead, despite his team shooting just 31 percent overall from the field.
Mooney, who finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds, was again pressed into service Tuesday, playing 39 minutes despite Brey expressing concern about his big man’s minutes after the NC State loss.
“He’s tired. He’s really tired. … I’m really guarded — I don’t even know if he’s going to practice the next two days,” Brey said of Mooney during his postgame press conference Saturday. “We really have to be careful. I am concerned about that, because he has given us everything, it’s unbelievable — but he’s tired.”
In the second half, it was largely Mooney and Laszewski — who finished with 19 points — who would continue to pace the Irish offense. With 12:38 to go, a dunk by Mooney put the Irish back in front 42-41, and Notre Dame looked as though it might scrap out a league win on the road.
However, Georgia Tech proceeded to rip off a 17-5 run over the next seven minutes and stretch its lead to 58-47 with 5:08 left. Yet, the Irish didn’t quit. Six-straight points by Laszewski were the catalyst for a 12-3 Irish run over the final minutes to cut the lead to 61-59. Despite the comeback, the Yellow Jackets hit both their free throws at the other end to extend their lead to four points. Mooney floated a meaningless two-point shot into the basket as the buzzer sounded — then tore at his jersey in a display of frustration as he walked back to the bench.
Overall, Notre Dame’s shooting frustrations continued, as the Irish shot 32 percent from the field and just 23 percent from beyond the arc — stats not unexpected by Brey given how tough Georgia Tech is on the defensive end.
“They’re hard to score on. They really guard you,” Brey said Saturday.
The Irish will return home to two daunting matchups, as No. 3 Virginia visits Purcell Pavilion on Saturday before No. 2 Duke rolls into town Monday night. The Irish and the Cavaliers are scheduled to tip-off at 1 p.m.