Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Notre Dame 78, Georgia Tech 74: Irish prevail in a nail biter in the ATL

Photo Credit: Curtis Compton- Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

ATLANTA–  For the third consecutive time, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-6, 2-4 ACC) knocked off the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-9, 3-4 ACC). In a tightly contested matchup, Notre Dame prevailed by a score of 78-74. With the win, the Irish improve to 2-10 all-time on the road against Georgia Tech.

“It’s amazing to think that’s only the second time [here]. But God, we’ve lost at the buzzer, we’ve lost… it’s just been great games,” said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey. “They’re so physical and they’re really good. We held our own on the backboard, even with our small lineup. We went small and that helped us offensively.”

“We finished at the Carrier Dome and made great plays. NC State, we couldn’t finish. Louisville on Saturday – heartbreaking. We come back, we’re up four and we couldn’t finish,” reflected Brey on the recent four-game stretch for Notre Dame. “I thought it was really important I’m watching the game unfold, ‘we really need to finish this one.’”

In a low-scoring first half, the Irish worked a seven-point advantage before the Jackets came storming back with a 7-0 run to tie the score at 24.  

A last second layup from Prentiss Hubb gave Notre Dame a two-point lead going into the halftime break. Coming off the bench, Dane Goodwin led all scorers with 10 points at the break. Michael Devoe led Georgia Tech with eight points and six rebounds in the first half. Devoe entered the contest fifth in scoring in the Atlantic Coast Conference, averaging 16.1 points per game.

“I challenged [Goodwin] because he’s been really good at home, but he’s not been very good on the road. So today at shootaround, I said, ‘Did you pack your game? Did you pack it? Because you haven’t packed it yet,” stated Brey. “He did today. He’s a fearless guy.”

John Mooney struggled to get anything going offensively in the first half. The nation’s leading rebounder hauled in seven rebounds but went 0-of-6 from the field.

After the break, both offenses began clicking on all cylinders, pouring in points at will. In a stretch of basketball, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame combined to go 12-of-12 from the field before someone missed a shot. 

Midway through the second half, frustrations began to boil over and multiple occasions, a few Notre Dame and Georgia Tech players needed to be separated. Georgia Tech began to take control of the game, building leads to as many as six points before Notre Dame would continue to claw back.

In a back and forth contest, the Yellow Jackets and Irish battled down to the closing seconds. TJ Gibbs and Hubb led Notre Dame down the stretch. The duo combined for 30 points in the final nine minutes of the contest. Hubb finished with a career-high 25 points– his fifth 20-plus point performance this season. Gibbs finished with 17 points, including knocking down a pair of triples in the contest.

“We feed off each other’s energy,” stated Gibbs. “Me and [Hubb], when we’re playing together in tandem and everything is flowing, I think that we can be very dangerous in the ACC and the NCAA.”

A strong second half from Mooney propelled him to his eleventh consecutive double-double, tying Luke Harangody’s program record at Notre Dame.

“I don’t really care about the personal stuff. I really don’t. I’m just glad we got the win. The double-doubles come from my teammates – especially on the offensive end when I’m scoring the ball, it’s because of our movement. It’s because we have shooters on the wing and it opens up stuff down low,” Mooney said. “Same with some of the rebounds. Juwan Durham will contest and it just leaves it kind of wide-open for me. It’s a team game and I’m just really glad that we got the win.”

Looking Ahead:

Next Wednesday, Notre Dame will host Syracuse in South Bend. Earlier this month, Notre Dame knocked off Syracuse, 88-87 in the Carrier Dome. Georgia Tech will cap off their two-game homestand against Virginia on Saturday.