Irish show new look to Georgia Tech

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Something about Sunday’s matchup between Georgia Tech and No. 21 Notre Dame strays from the repeat-opponent script.

Playing a conference colleague for the second time in a season typically carries little intrigue. Coaches know personnel, know what the other team likes to do and know what to expect.

But everything about this one at a sold-out Purcell Pavilion is different. This is not the Irish team that lost by two last month in midtown Atlanta on Josh Okogie’s breakaway layup at the buzzer.

Notre Dame had the ball and had the chance to either win it in the closing seconds or go to overtime. Instead, the Irish quick-shot it, allowed the Yellow Jackets to get the rebound, race the ball up the floor and win.

That day, the Irish look featured two power forwards. Not anymore.

Following four straight league losses (Georgia Tech was No. 2 in the run), coach Mike Brey scrapped the two-big look, rattled his rotation and got his guys back to doing what they’ve long been able to do — score.

Notre Dame (21-7, 10-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) has won four in a row and has its sights set on earning one of the ACC tournament’s four double byes for a third-straight season.

The Irish now go with four guards grouped with do-it-all power forward Bonzie Colson. Instead of banging around near the rim, they spread teams out, open the floor and keep opponents guessing where the ball might next go.

It’s going to look a lot different for Georgia Tech.

“We’ve changed it up,” said sophomore guard Rex Pflueger, who moved into the starting lineup for good two games ago. “They’re going to see a new us.”

Still, the Irish are a team that remembers letting a possible league win get away last month.

“For our guys, that’s the most down and upset that I’ve seen them,” coach Mike Brey said. “They will want to play well, because that one hurt. We had the ball with a chance. Maybe we didn’t deserve that but we were there.”

Nobody expected Georgia Tech (16-12, 7-8) to be here with one week left in the regular season. The Yellow Jackets were picked in preseason to finish 14th in the 15-team league, and those expectations might not have been that high inside their own athletic department.

First-year coach Josh Pastner has shared the story many times over the last few months that when he was hired from Memphis, he was told by Georgia Tech school officials that there was a good chance he wouldn’t win any conference games in his first year.

Maybe none even in his second year.

Instead, the Yellow Jackets are in the discussion to possibly get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.

To do that, Pastner figures his team has to win at least one more league game. Two and they’re in good shape. Really good shape.

“I still believe 8-10 should get you into the NCAA tournament in this league,” Pastner said. “We still have the opportunity to control our own destiny.”

That destiny has to include either winning Sunday at Notre Dame, where the Yellow Jackets have never won, or later in the week at Syracuse.

Pastner’s players know that score. They’ve won one league road game all year. They have to find a way to get to two.

“I’ve been very upfront with the guys,” he said. “That’s just kind of where I believe that everything stands.”