NOTRE DAME (11-7, 1-4 ACC) AT GEORGIA TECH (10-8, 2-3 ACC)
Where: McCamish Pavilion (Atlanta, Georgia)
Rankings: Both teams are unranked.
TV/Time: Raycom Sports, 7 p.m. ET.
Series Facts: The Yellow Jackets lead the all-time series 10-8.
Last Meeting: Georgia Tech defeated the Irish 60-53 on Jan. 10, 2018.
A rough finish offensively cost Notre Dame in a 77-73 loss to NC State keeping the Irish from potentially picking up a top-25 win at home.
Mike Brey‘s group will aim to bounce back tonight against a Georgia Tech program that Notre Dame hasn’t defeated on the road in their last three attempts.
Blue & Gold Illustrated previews the Irish and Yellowjackets before they meet this evening.
NOTRE DAME OVERVIEW
A dunk from forward John Mooney with 8:26 remaining cut NC State’s lead to 62-61 and the crowd inside Purcell Pavilion was loud on that Saturday afternoon. Notre Dame was playing well offensively connecting on 11-of-20 field goal attempts after Mooney’s make in the second half, and it seemed the Irish were in prime position to take a late lead.
But, that wound up being the team’s last make for the next 4:04 as the Wolfpack built a 67-61 advantage before a bucket from freshman guard Dane Goodwin ended the drought. Notre Dame would eventually make just two of their final nine attempts to allow NC State to leave South Bend with a close victory.
Mooney finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds to lead Notre Dame, while Goodwin tied his career-high with 19 points. Guard TJ Gibbs added 13 points to the efforts and wing DJ Harvey rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points.
Guard Prentiss Hubb (8) and wing Nik Djogo (4) combined for 12 points. Freshmen forwards Nate Laszewski and Chris Doherty, who played seven minutes in his first appearance of the year, failed to get a bucket to fall.
It was a familiar story for Irish fans this year with a cold spell offensively derailing the team’s chances to pull out a tough win.
After taking a 58-57 lead with 6:51 remaining against North Carolina on the road last week, the Irish made just one of their next nine shots, including missing six straight while the Tar Heels built an eventual 70-61 advantage.
For the second-straight matchup, Notre Dame was a shooter short against a top-25 opponent. Offensive inconsistency, especially in crunch time, has been a major theme for the Irish this year and that may remain the case for the future. Can a young Notre Dame overcome it?
The next test comes today on the road against a Georgia Tech team that has been strong defensively this season.
GEORGIA TECH OVERVIEW
For a Notre Dame team that has not consistently played well offensively this season, Georgia Tech will provide a tough challenge for the Irish.
The Yellow Jackets are among the nation’s best defensively allowing just 63.6 points per game on 38.7 percent shooting overall and just 27.8 percent behind the arc.
Per KenPom.com, Georgia Tech ranks 16th in adjusted defensive efficiency and eighth in effective field goal percentage allowed (43.8 percent).
But, Josh Pastner’s team is expected to be without three key members of the rotation: guard Jose Alvarado (13.7 PPG), guard Brandon Alston (9.6 PPG) and forward Abdoulaye Gueye (5.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG).
Alvarado and Alston represent Georgia Tech’s first and third leading scorers respectively while the Yellow Jackets lose size in the frontcourt minus Gueye. The trio missed the team’s 79-51 loss to Louisville in the last time out.
With the losses of the trio, Pastner will likely start a group of center James Banks (10.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG) and forward Moses Wright (5.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG) in the frontcourt and guard Michael Devoe (8.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.3 APG), guard Curtis Haywood (7.9 PPG, 2.4 APG) and forward Khalid Moore (4.6 PPG) on the perimeter.
Forward Evan Cole (5.2 PPG), guard Shembari Phillips (2.9 PPG) and Sylvester Ogbonda (2.3 PPG) are likely to round out the rotation coming off the bench for the Yellow Jackets.
How will Pastner adjust to potentially being without the trio again after a rough outing against the Cardinals?
Atlanta has been a tough place for Notre Dame to win in this series, and this could be their best opportunity to pull out a win if the Georgia Tech trio does miss the contest.
This should be a low scoring game as the Irish rank 288th in adjusted tempo while the Yellow Jackers are 150th. Efficiency will be the name of the game in this one, especially for Georgia Tech if they are indeed without the scoring of Alvarado and Alston.
Notre Dame 66, Georgia Tech 63
With Alvarado, Alston and Gueye expected to be out, I am just not sure Georgia Tech will be able to score enough points in this one.
I do expect the Yellow Jackets to provide a challenge defensively and keep this one close. Home court advantage will also help, but even with the injuries Notre Dame has suffered this year Brey’s group has enough offensively to pull this one off.
Notre Dame gets the road monkey off its back in this series in a close one.