Late layup stuns No. 14 Notre Dame men at Georgia Tech

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

ATLANTA – This was an Atlantic Coast Conference game that No. 14 Notre Dame likely would have won earlier this month.

Close contest. Game situations beckoning. On the road. Find a way.

Notre Dame did just that at Pittsburgh and at Miami (Fla.) and at Virginia Tech.

On Saturday, it discovered what it’s like at the other end of the game-situation spectrum.

It’s not pretty.

Tied at 60 and looking for the lead in the closing seconds of regulation with guard Matt Farrell probing, the Irish allowed the Yellow Jackets to corral a defensive rebound, race the ball up the floor and watched Josh Okogie drop in a decisive layup as the horn sounded on a 62-60 loss at McCamish Pavilion.

“This one’s tough, Farrell said. “It didn’t go our way today.”

Losers of two in a row for the second time this season and three of its last four league games, Notre Dame falls to 17-5, 6-3 in the ACC. Rolling with a second home victory over a Top 15 opponent in as many opportunities, Georgia Tech improves to 13-8, 5-4.

The Irish have lost three of four at McCamish Pavilion, and the last two in the closing seconds. Last season, the Irish led by one before a Marcus Georges-Hunt basket with two seconds remaining gave the Yellow Jackets a one-point win.

“We have had thrillers in this building since we’ve been in the ACC,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “Gotta give Georgia Tech a lot of credit. They made the last great play.”

Saturday’s loss was the first for Notre Dame this season against an unranked team. It’s the latest the Irish have gone in a season before losing to an unranked opponent since 1973-74. Notre Dame lost to unranked Dayton in the regular-season finale of a year that saw the Irish go 26-3.

V.J. Beachem led the Irish with 23 points. Farrell added 15.

Farrell worked the shot clock and game clock down both under 10 seconds – game shot at 7.9, shot at 3 – before his offering danced off the rim.

“Probably didn’t get as good a shot at the end there,” Brey said. “We just couldn’t make the last play. They got it today. They played better longer.”

The Jackets grabbed the rebound and Okogie had a run-out with only freshman guard T.J. Gibbs to beat.

“Our defensive balance wasn’t very good,” Brey said.

Beachem tied it at 60 with 2:43 remaining. The Irish had a chance at the lead on a Farrell 3 that went long. Georgia Tech got the rebound and the ball with 48.3 seconds remaining.

Okogie had a chance to give the Yellow Jackets the lead in the final minute but missed both free throws.

Notre Dame played that key stretch without leading scorer Bonzie Colson, who was on the bench in favor of Austin Torres, who played a career-high 21 minutes.

Trailing much of the second half and unable to get a stop or a rebound when one or the other was really needed, Notre Dame got within two, 60-58, following a Farrell 3 with 3:26 remaining.

Georgia Tech guard Tadric Jackson erupted for a career-high 25 points and was unstoppable against any defender in blue.

“We had no answers for him,” Brey said.

Or for the backboard. Again. After being out-rebounded by 16 in Tuesday’s loss to Virginia, Notre Dame lost the battle of the boards, 37-29. That included 12 offensive rebounds that the Yellow Jackets flipped into 16 points.

An Irish offense that had been so efficient before the start of the week (thanks, Virginia) stalled again early in Saturday’s second half. Notre Dame couldn’t get in much of a rhythm and went over four minutes without a bucket. That put them down six.

“It was hard for us to get into any offensive rhythm,” Brey said. “We worked like heck to get 60 points today.”

Down four at the break, Brey shuffled his starting lineup to return for the final 20. Out went junior power forward Martinas Geben and in came Torres, who delivered some solid opening minutes. Notre Dame ran off six unanswered points to take a two-point lead in the opening few minutes.

Torres drew two charges in the first five minutes. Geben did not play in the second half.

A hot and cold M.O. for Beachem saw the senior captain open hot in the first half. Coming off three points on 1-of-10 shooting earlier in the week against Virginia, that after going for a career-high 30 points the previous game against Syracuse, Beachem had a solid start.

Beachem led everyone in blue with 12 points at the break. His 3 snapped a 21-4 Tech run late in the period and put him over 1,000 career points.

Beachem’s the second Irish (Steve Vasturia) to go over 1,000 this season.

The Irish ran off 10 unanswered, including 3s from Beachem and Vasturia, to jump to a 10-point lead on the road less than 10 minutes into the first half. But the good times didn’t last for Notre Dame, which hemorrhaged for much of the rest of the half.

From everywhere.

From everyone.

Georgia Tech switched from its man defense to zone and proceeded to lock the Irish up for a spurt that saw the visitors miss nine of 11 shots. The Yellow Jackets just couldn’t miss.

A couple Ben Lammers baskets capped a 14-4 run and gave Tech a one-point lead with under four minutes remaining. Tech returned from the timeout and scored seven unanswered, including a Jackson 3, part of a 21-4 run that saw the Irish tumble into an eight-point hole.

A Farrell 3 right before halftime allowed the Irish to get within four, 35-31.

Notre Dame went 3-of-18 from 3 against Virginia. The Irish then connected on their first 3 – from Farrell – in the opening minutes.

Beachem and Vasturia followed with 3s of their own to make it 3-for-3 from 3 in the opening eight-plus minutes. The Irish then missed their next four before closing the half with a pair of 3s from Beachem and Farrell.

Notre Dame returns to action Monday at home at sold-out Purcell Pavilion against No. 17 Duke.

“We’re excited about that quick turnaround,” Beachem said. “Just gotta respond and be ready to go.”


At Atlanta

NOTRE DAME (17-5): Bonzie Colson 6-10 1-3 13, V.J. Beachem 10-16 0-0 23, Martinas Geben 0-2 2-2 2, Matt Farrell 5-14 2-2 15, Steve Vasturia 1-7 2-2 5, Austin Torres 1-4 0-2 2, Matt Ryan 0-1 0-0 0, Rex Pflueger 0-1 0-0 0, T.J. Gibbs 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 23-57 7-11 60.

GEORGIA TECH (13-8): Quinton Stephens 2-8 0-0 5, Ben Lammers 7-14 1-2 15, Corey Heyward 0-2 0-0 0, Josh Heath 4-6 1-2 9, Josh Okogie 2-5 4-6 8, Tadric Jackson 11-19 0-2 25, Justin Moore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-54 6-12 62.

Halftime--Georgia Tech 35-31. 3-Point Goals--Notre Dame 7-17 (Farrell 3-5, Beachem 3-6, Vasturia 1-4, Pflueger 0-1, Gibbs 0-1), Georgia Tech 4-16 (Jackson 3-6, Stephens 1-6, Heyward 0-2, Heath 0-2). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Notre Dame 27 (Colson 13), Georgia Tech 36 (Stephens 13). Assists--Notre Dame 13 (Farrell 4), Georgia Tech 18 (Heath 8). Total Fouls--Notre Dame 12, Georgia Tech 9. A--8,600 (8,600).

Notre Dame guard Matt Farrell (5) drives between Georgia Tech's Quinton Stephens (12) and Tadric Jackson (1) during Saturday's game. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)