A look back at Georgia Tech's 63-62 win over No. 19 Notre Dame. (Five observations here.)
Kudos to MGH
Another standout performance by Marcus Georges-Hunt with a team-high 19 points and seven assists, which tied his career high, against one turnover. Besides the game-winning score, he set up guard Adam Smith on the 3-pointer that cut Notre Dame’s lead to one with 50 seconds left.
He scored 13 of his 19 in the first half, when the Jackets took a seven-point lead going into halftime.
After the game, coach Brian Gregory locked up Georges-Hunt in a hug, and the appreciation that Gregory has for him was obvious. Georges-Hunt was part of Gregory’s first recruiting class and has hung in through some pretty rough waters. He’s the only one of the class left. Robert Carter transferred after two seasons and Chris Bolden was not brought back after last season. For that matter, Solomon Poole, who enrolled halfway through his freshman season, was dismissed during the 2013-14 season.
Georges-Hunt has been a pillar for the team throughout his four seasons and has carried the load for the Jackets in particular the past two seasons.
“He deserves it,” Gregory said. “You want good things to happen to good people. It doesn’t always work out that way, but you’ve got to stay strong in your belief that eventually the time’s going to come and (Saturday) was one of those times.”
Strong on D
Tech played one of its best defensive games of the season, particularly considering the strength of Notre Dame’s offense. The Irish came into the game with the top-ranked offense by the Ken Pomeroy ratings. Notre Dame shot 44.4 percent from the field and only went to the line 13 times, which is almost seven free throws short of its average in ACC games and 19 fewer than the Irish took against Tech in South Bend, Ind., in January.
Tech has had a tough go at keeping opponents off the line, but not Saturday.
The Jackets did a nice job challenging shots and often forcing Notre Dame into the final five seconds of the shot clock. Georges-Hunt helped hound guard Steve Vasturia, who came into the game averaging 12.8 points per game but had just seven on 3-for-10 shooting. Forward Nick Jacobs was primarily responsible for defending forward Zach Auguste and did a commendable job not letting him get the ball on slips and rolls to the basket off ball screens. Auguste still scored 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting, but limiting his shot opportunities helped Tech’s cause.
“I think they really defended us better,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
Seeing what this team is capable of – beating then-No. 4 Virginia and No. 19 Notre Dame at home, as well as the defeat of bubble team Florida State on the road – gives confirmation of this team’s potential and makes some of the losses just a little bit more vexing.
For instance, the East Tennessee State defeat was simply not acceptable. In ACC play, had Tech won two out of three of the home losses to Virginia Tech, Louisville and Duke – Tech led each at halftime by four or more – the Jackets would be 7-7 in the league. Flip the ETSU result and now the Jackets would be 18-9 and would appear to be in the middle of NCAA tournament consideration.
Instead, the Jackets are 15-12 overall and 5-9 in the ACC.
Even still, Tech still has the opportunity to finish .500 in the ACC, which would be the first time the Jackets have been able to do that since the 2006-07 season.
Stat of the game
Prior to Saturday, the Jackets had lost their nine consecutive ACC regular-season games decided by three points (one possession) or fewer. The last win by three or less was another game in which Georges-Hunt came through in the final seconds, a 74-71 win over Boston College in the 2013-14 season in which he hit a game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds.
A look at how the teams fared in four critical statistical categories - effective field-goal percentage, offensive rebounding percentage, turnover percentage and free throws per field-goal attempt.
I think the critical difference was in offensive rebounding percentage. The Jackets didn’t shoot particularly well – they were 4-for-15 from 3-point range – but their work on the offensive glass ( as well as three fewer turnovers) helped carve out six more field-goal attempts than the Irish (60-54) on a night when each shot was obviously critical. The Jackets had a great game for second-chance points. Scoring 20 second-chance points on 14 offensive rebounds is an excellent ratio. (Notre Dame actually did better, scoring 17 second-chance points on 11 offensive rebounds.)
It actually wasn’t a very good game for Tech on the defensive glass. It seemed like the Jackets had a number of potential rebounds that they had difficulty securing – balls going off players' hands out of bounds or bobbled and snatched away by Notre Dame players.
As noted previously, the Jackets were much better than they have been keeping at not fouling. Tech opponents had a FT/FG rate of 43.6 percent in ACC games prior to Saturday. Notre Dame’s was 33.6 percent. The Irish's 24.1 percent was a season low for Tech opponents in ACC games this season.
Notre Dame point guard Demetrius Jackson went to the line 14 times in the first game (making 13). He had just two free throws Saturday, a credit to Smith’s defense.
“I stopped and paused and just looked. I think everybody was looking to see if it went in or not, and then it finally went in and then it just exploded. Everybody just exploded.” – Georges-Hunt on the game-winner
“I had 12 rebounds. Hey! I’m not used to seeing that.” – forward Nick Jacobs, looking over the box score while at the post-game news conference
“They’re old and they’re men. They’re physical. We had a hard time dealing with them in the post with those big guys early. We finally got that a little bit under control, but I think they’ll always have a chance coming down the stretch because they’re so old and so physical, and you’ve got Hunt and you’ve got (Adam) Smith, who are amazing difference makers.” – Notre Dame coach Mike Brey
At the game
The game was announced as a sellout (8,600), and Tech fans brought a lot of energy into the building. I give credit to the fans who have been coming to games for putting their hearts and lungs into supporting the team, particularly when I imagine a lot of them are fearing the worst.
“The crowd was great, from the opening, when we were warming up, up to the end,” Georges-Hunt said. “They did a great job.”