Notre Dame delivers with another needed ACC road win
ATLANTA — Message received and a league road win delivered.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey counseled his team earlier in the week that nobody in the Atlantic Coast Conference was going to feel sorry for them. They wouldn’t give them a league road win — or any league win — just because the Irish needed one. If they wanted one, they had to go out and get it. Take it.
Notre Dame did just that Wednesday at Georgia Tech.
Guards T.J. Gibbs and Prentiss Hubb combined for 34 of Notre Dame’s 49 second-half points as the Irish snapped a two-game league losing streak with a 78-74 victory at McCamish Pavilion.
“We feed off each other’s energy,” Hubb said. “Me and him, if we’re playing together in tandem and everything’s flowing, we can be very dangerous in the ACC and the NCAA (tournament). It’s a big win. It can help lead us into a winning stretch.”
The win moves Notre Dame to 11-6, 2-4. Both of its league wins have come on the road.
Hubb scored 20 of his career high 25 points in the second half. Gibbs added 17 points. Sophomore guard Dane Goodwin had 15.
“Hubb was fabulous,” Brey said. “He’s trending this way. He’s trending on being one of the better guards in the league.”
Senior power forward John Mooney finished with his 14th double double for points (10) and rebounds (13). It’s his 11th straight game with a double double, which ties Luke Harangody’s school record.
“I don’t care about that personal stuff, I really don’t,” Mooney said. “I’m just glad we got the win. We’re just going to take this.”
A Gibbs 3 gave the Irish a six-point lead, 70-64, with 63 seconds remaining.
Notre Dame shook off early shot-making issues to connect on 53.1 percent of its shots in the second half. The game featured 12 ties and 10 lead changes. The Irish led the final 3:37 following a Gibbs drive. The Yellow Jackets kept trying to answer, but it was the Irish who had the answers with defensive stops and big buckets and a belief that they were going to get this one.
Notre Dame trailed by as many as six in the second half with 10:19 remaining. Goodwin sliced that to four with a 3. It was Notre Dame’s first 3 in the second half after seven misses. A Gibbs drive brought the Irish within one and then when he found Hubb for a flip shot in the paint, the Irish were up 50-49 and it was on to game situations.
The biggest issue was, could the Irish find a way to close. They couldn’t against North Carolina State or Louisville. They did Wednesday. It was Notre Dame’s first win in midtown Atlanta since February 2015.
“I thought it was really important, like, we really need to finish this one,” Brey said. “If you lose a third in game situations and you’re 1-5. ... I think we can grow with this one.”
A first half that featured five ties and two lead changes ended on a Hubb layup to give the Irish a 29-27 lead. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Irish would take it.
Notre Dame started its usual way — with two bigs and three perimeter players — though Brey promised the previous day that the Irish likely would jump back into a four-around-one (four guards, one big) lineup quicker than usual. During Saturday’s loss to No. 11 Louisville, Brey waited all of 27 seconds in the second half before downshifting and going with Goodwin in place of Juwan Durham, who checked out of the game and never did check back in.
Brey explained to Durham then, and again Tuesday, that it was nothing Durham did or didn’t do. He just felt it was better that the Irish get another guard on the floor, which would help open everything up.
Notre Dame went small for a good chunk of the second half.
A grind of a game was expected at Georgia Tech — that’s just the way the Yellow Jackets make teams play — and Notre Dame opened by making one of its first eight shots and going 0-for-4 from 3 before the first media timeout.
The Irish led by as many as six late in the first half following a Durham rebound dunk. Goodwin then stretched that to seven with a 3 with 6:33 left before intermission. The instant-offense sixth man was back in instant offense mode. He went for seven points his first nine minutes.
Georgia Tech ran off seven unanswered to tie it at 24 as Notre Dame went scoreless for over three minutes. The Irish made only two of its first 10 shots. What were the Irish running offensively early? Hard to tell. The Yellow Jackets weren’t that much better.
Next up for Notre Dame, a needed break from basketball. From the road. From home games. The Irish are off for the next six days before returning to action Wednesday at home against Syracuse. Then it’s back out on the road to play Florida State.
“It’s good to get a little rest,” Mooney said.
And get it with a win. A league win. A league road win.
NOTRE DAME 78, GEORGIA TECH 74
NOTRE DAME (78): Mooney 4-12 2-2 10, Gibbs 6-11 3-4 17, Hubb 8-16 6-8 25, Pflueger 0-5 0-0 0, Goodwin 5-11 2-4 15, Durham 4-6 0-0 8, Laszewski 1-4 1-1 3. Totals 28-65 14-19 78.
GEORGIA TECH (74): Devoe 9-15 2-3 22, Banks 4-6 2-3 10, Alvarado 3-7 0-0 7, Usher 4-10 0-0 8, Parham 3-6 0-0 7, Wright 6-11 4-5 16, Cole 0-1 2-4 2, Price 1-2 0-0 2, Moore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-58 10-15 74.
Halftime_Notre Dame 29-27. 3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 8-26 (Goodwin 3-4, Hubb 3-8, Gibbs 2-4, Laszewski 0-3, Pflueger 0-3, Mooney 0-4), Georgia Tech 4-15 (Devoe 2-4, Parham 1-3, Alvarado 1-4, Price 0-1, Wright 0-1, Usher 0-2). Fouled Out_Alvarado. Rebounds_Notre Dame 31 (Mooney 13), Georgia Tech 32 (Devoe 9). Assists_Notre Dame 9 (Gibbs, Hubb 3), Georgia Tech 15 (Alvarado 9). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 18, Georgia Tech 17.