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Men’s Basketball

Despite big first half, Irish fall to Georgia Tech

| Monday, February 8, 2021

Despite a first half in which they scored 50 points on 66% shooting, the Notre Dame men’s basketball team fell 82-80 to Georgia Tech on Saturday night in Atlanta.

“Tough one to swallow,” head coach Mike Brey said after the game.

The Irish had a chance to win at the buzzer, but were unable to get a shot off before time expired. 

“Our defense let us down tonight,” Brey said. “We scored 80 and probably had enough on the board on the offensive end.”

The Irish came out of the gate quickly, opening the game with a 14-2 run thanks to their aggressive defense and continued that momentum for the remainder of the first half, shooting 19-29 from the field, including 6-13 from beyond the arc. They took a 50-35 lead into the locker room, the most points they’ve scored in a half this season. 

The Yellow Jackets opened the second half on a 12-2 run, thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers, forcing Brey to take an early timeout. Junior forward Nate Laszewski scored six points in quick succession after the timeout to stretch the Irish lead back to 11 points, but Georgia Tech answered with a 7-0 run to bring the score to within two.

Photo courtesy of Hyosub Shin
Irish graduate student guard Juwan Durham goes for a block during Notre Dame’s 82-80 loss at Georgia Tech on Sunday at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta.

The Irish continued to score inside with ease thanks to junior guard Prentiss Hubb’s playmaking, which led to easy looks for Laszewski and graduate student forward Juwan Durham. Hubb finished with 15 points and 10 assists, his third double-double of the season. Georgia Tech countered each score, however, shooting over 60% in the second half.

“Our defensive rhythm was off,” Laszewski said. “They made some tough shots.”

Georgia Tech’s full court pressure was also problematic for the Irish.

“We really haven’t played against a team that’s pressed us, but I thought it got us on our heels a little bit,” Brey said. “The second half turnovers and not letting us get in attack mode really hurt us.”

Though the opposing team presented a challenge, Laszewski said the game could be a learning experience.

“We just have to stay locked in, keep holding each other accountable, keep digging in defensively,” he said. 

The Yellow Jackets used their length and athleticism to force the Irish into turnovers and bad shots down the stretch.

“They’re better athletes than us,” Brey said. “It’s happened a bunch to us this season. We’re not going to all of a sudden get more athletic.” 

A Hubb turnover which led to a fast break layup gave Georgia Tech its first lead in nearly 30 minutes, but Laszewski answered with a 3-pointer to put the Irish back in front. Laszewski scored a game-high 27 points on a career-best 11 field goals, after scoring in single digits in each of the last three contests.

“Nate’s a bounce-back kind of guy,” Brey said. “Even though we were winning, he wasn’t playing as well or scoring as much, but he was doing other things.” 

After Georgia Tech tied it at 70, the Irish scored six quick points to retake the lead, but they would only score four points in the last six minutes. A Laszewski and-one gave them back the lead with just under four minutes to play, but the Yellow Jackets continued to force the Irish into difficult shots and maintained a three-point advantage with just over a minute to play.

Laszewski was sent to the line with a chance to bring it within one, but he missed the first free throw of the one-and-one, and after a defensive stop, junior guard Cormac Ryan was fouled and went one-for-two at the line. Georgia Tech got the ball back with 35 seconds to go, and the Irish elected not to foul. Laszewski blocked a layup and, with no timeouts remaining, Notre Dame got the ball up the floor quickly. It fell to Ryan, who despite having what looked to be a clean look at the basket, attempted to find a teammate, and the horn sounded before the Irish could get a shot off.

“I feel for him,” Brey said. “If we had to do it all over again he would’ve rose up and taken that one. … We probably over-analyzed.” 

The Irish wrap up their short, three-game road trip with a trip to Durham, North Carolina, on Tuesday to take on the Duke.

“I’ve got no speeches for them, baby,” Brey said. “There’s no rah-rah BS. We didn’t finish it; we didn’t get it done. Grow up, and get another chance on the road on Tuesday.”

The Blue Devils (7-7, 5-5 ACC) are in the midst of an uncharacteristically poor season but still boast plenty of talent. They are led by sophomore forward Matthew Hurt, who averages 18 points per contest. Duke took the first game of the season series against the Irish on Dec. 16, with a 75-65 victory in South Bend. 

Tuesday’s game tips off at 4:30 p.m. from Cameron Indoor Stadium and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.

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