Irish outlast Yellow Jackets in ACC rematch
Ryan Kolakowski | Monday, February 11, 2019
An anemic first-half shooting performance nearly doomed Notre Dame in a conference matchup against Georgia Tech, but productive offensive rebounding and second-chance opportunities allowed the Irish to escape with a victory Sunday night.
The Irish (13-11, 3-8 ACC) defeated the Yellow Jackets (11-13, 3-8 ACC) 69-59. Four scorers reached double digit point totals for Notre Dame, who split their season series against Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets struggled to control possession, turning the ball over 14 times and allowing the Irish to collect 20 offensive rebounds in the loss.
“It’s a make-and-miss game, and unfortunately, you know, we missed some shots and they obviously hurt us with those 20 offensive rebounds,” Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner said. “They just got scoring through second-chance opportunities and our turnovers.”
Early in the game, junior forward John Mooney forced a layup home and drew a foul to give the Irish a 6-5 advantage and their first lead of the night. The lead was short-lived as the Irish offense disappeared midway through the first half. Following Mooney’s layup and missed free throw, Notre Dame missed on 13 consecutive shots to fall into a 14-6 deficit.
Sophomore guard D.J. Harvey ended the scoring drought with a long two-point jump shot with 8:09 remaining in the first half, but Georgia Tech had gone on a 9-0 run to take a commanding lead.
The Yellow Jackets led by 9 points with 6:58 remaining in the first half, but the Irish slowly clawed their way back into the game before break.
With 49 seconds remaining in the half, Mooney collected an airball underneath the basket and scored a layup, drawing a foul in the process. Mooney then knocked down the free throw to knot the game at 24, the first tie since the game was scoreless at the opening tipoff.
After Georgia Tech went ahead 25-24, Freshman forward Nate Laszewski failed to connect on a go-ahead three-point shot going into the break. Following the miss, Georgia Tech drove down the court looking to expand their lead, but Laszewski stormed back on defense to block the shot attempt into the stands and send the game to halftime.
The Irish shot an abysmal 29.4 percent from the floor in the first half, including 18.8 percent from three-point range.
Following a Georgia Tech 3-pointer to start the second half, Notre Dame went on a 9-0 run to claim a 33-28 lead. Georgia Tech responded with a 5-0 run of their own to tie the game at 33.
“We were getting pretty good looks again,” head coach Mike Brey said. “I thought in the second half we really passed, and moved, and cut and we got to the board.”
As the second half progressed, the Irish offense began finding ways to score. Mooney collected another double-double, his ACC-leading 15th of the season, with 11 points and 14 rebounds. He provided Notre Dame with several second-chance opportunities, and the Irish pulled away from the Yellow Jackets as the game clock ticked down.
Despite only shooting 36.7 percent as a team in the second half, Notre Dame managed to outscore Georgia Tech 45-34 in the period. Junior guard T.J. Gibbs scored 20 on the night — all but two of which came in the second half — and Harvey poured in 18 of his own to lead the Irish offense to victory.
“With everybody else around me going off and being aggressive, it kind of opens things up for me,” Harvey said. “This is definitely a confidence booster going forward.”
Georgia Tech converted on 40.7 percent of its shots compared to Notre Dame’s 32.8 percent, but the Irish overcame its poor shooting performance by collecting offensive rebounds and executing second-chance opportunities.
Slam dunks from junior Nikola Djogo and freshman Prentiss Hubb put the exclamation point on the game for the Irish, and Notre Dame escaped with the victory.
“Any league win is great for any team in this league,” Brey said. “We’re 2-1 in February. We talked about turning the page in February. We knew we had a shot in February, with our schedule, to do some things.”
Following the conference win, the Irish will prepare to take on No. 3 Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, this Saturday.
“These guys can enjoy it a day or two and then we’ll get back to work,” Brey said.