The process was different than we've seen but sadly the result was the same. Georgia Tech falls again to Notre Dame, 62-59, thanks to some late game lack of offensive execution.
With Tech starting out 0-3 in ACC play, changes had to be made. Josh Heath started over Travis Jorgenson and Corey Heyward was put in the starting lineup probably to try to counter the best offense in the nation. Brian Gregory stated about the switch, "I just felt that some changes were needed". Heyward guarded star player Jerian Grant most of the time and made him work for points. The two clicked pretty early, as Heyward fed to a cutting Heath down the lane.
There was a common theme early, as the team went inside primarily, and their first few shots were all in the paint.
Bolden was the Jackets MVP in this game. His offense created a big lead for Tech. In consecutive possessions, he hit a three then stole a pass and then finished the fast break with a layup. All three of his shots behind the arc were in rhythm and hit nothing but net. "I felt comfortable with my shot", he said. Bolden scored all 11 of his first half points in a 4 minute stretch in the middle and finished with 13 overall.
In the first half, there was nothing easy for the Irish in the paint. Two Jackets were there to prevent easy buckets. Tech held the Irish to 30 points on 10-26 (38.5%) shooting in the first 20 minutes.
Charles Mitchell had only 2 points but took down 7 rebounds en route to giving Tech a 18-12 edge on the glass in the first half. They finished with a 33-26 lead, but Mitchell was only in the game for 7 second half minutes.
The good guys took shots in rhythm and played methodical offense without being deliberate. Cuts to the lane were well timed and passes were hitting their intended targets which led to a 38-30 halftime lead. This would not continue pass the intermission sadly.
The Irish went on an immediate 7-0 run following halftime to trim the Tech lead to just one. This is the best offense in the country according to Kenpom. They weren't going to be held them down for long.
Notre Dame went to a small lineup with the absence of their normal starting center Zach Auguste. Demarco Cox was able to take his smaller opponent in the post to retain Tech's halftime lead in the second half. Cox played the majority of the minutes in the second half with Mitchell sitting for size reasons presumably, and finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds.
Mike Brey's team starting sending extra pressure his way. "[Double and triple teams] don't slow me down, I'm always in attack mode in the post", Cox said. But all three of Cox, Bolden and coach Gregory pointed out that execution has to be better, especially in the second half, and that led to Tech shooting just 26.1% after shooting 53.6% in the first half.
One positive from the game was the improved free throw shooting. The team was 12-15 (80%), and Cox, normally a very poor shooter from there, went 5-6. "I put in the work everyday, and coach keeps telling me when I'm at the foul line to lock it in", Cox continued.
The forced turnovers and a couple of key shots kept Tech in the game in the second half, despite their woes offensively. Corey Heyward had a big three with 4 on the shot clock, his first made three this season, but that was basically it for Tech from the field until the game was already decided.
Jerian Grant hit step back two pointer along the baseline to push the score to 59-56 with just 19.6 seconds remaining. Coach Gregory had this to say about Corey Heyward's defense on Grant, "I thought he forced Grant to take a tough shot at the end, and Grant was able to put it in".
Marcus Georges-Hunt took the ball the length of the floor and drew a blocking foul. However, he bricked the uber important front end of the 1-and-1. That miscue led to a transition bucket and 1 for Notre Dame and the game was put out of reach.
It was a balanced scoring attack for Notre Dame as six of the Irish had at least 9 points. Jerian Grant led the way with 12 points but they were all big buckets.
Tech closed out the game on 1-7 shooting over the last 7+ minutes until a meaningless Quinton Stephens three with 2.5 seconds left. The common theme was the Jackets making the same mistakes that have plagued them over the past four games. "We struggle against teams that go small cause we go big", Gregory stated, reminiscent of the Dayton loss to team with no one over 6'6" in height.
"There are plays that we just need to learn from and that can't happen again. We can't keep making the same mistakes", Chris Bolden said. On the four close ACC losses, coach Gregory put it best, "It's frustrating, no doubt about it".