Notre Dame-Georgia Tech Preview
Georgia Tech could provide Notre Dame a serious challenge for the second time this month. Especially with second-leading scorer Zach Auguste out.
The visiting No. 12 Fighting Irish look to get back on track Wednesday night with a second victory in 12 days over the Yellow Jackets, who hope to avoid a second 0-4 ACC start in three seasons.
Coach Mike Brey couldn’t fault Notre Dame’s effort in Saturday’s 62-56 loss to then-No. 3 Virginia.
The nation’s top shooting team was held to a season-low 33.9 percent and also scored its fewest points of 2014-15 against a Cavaliers’ defense that ranks among the best in the country, but hung tough before its 11-game winning streak ended. The Irish (15-2, 3-1), who still lead the nation in field-goal percentage (53.5), missed their final four shots and succumbed to a late 9-0 Virginia run.
Auguste ranks fourth nationally in field-goal percentage at 65.3 percent and averages 14.3 points with 6.4 rebounds, but his absence leaves Notre Dame with a major void. No other Irish big men are averaging more than three points or three rebounds a game.
Auguste did not travel with the team and no reason was given for him not playing. Brey said he would talk about the situation after Wednesday’s game.
After falling to Virginia, Brey felt good about the Irish’s chances going forward. Following a one-point loss to Providence on Nov. 23 they got hot and pulled out a gritty one-point win at then-No. 18 North Carolina in their only true road game.
"What I talked to (the players) about was, we go back on the road now. Our first road league game (at North Carolina), we played really well," Brey told the school’s official website. "I want to get that kind of mindset as we go to Atlanta, to see if we can bounce back. I have the utmost confidence in our leadership. Our leadership will not let this (loss) linger."
His players might have the proper attitude to prove their coach right.
"I like our toughness and how together we are," said forward V.J. Beachem, who had 12 points off the bench Saturday. "We’re really a family. We have to stay together and come back and be ready to go."
Though Georgia Tech (9-6, 0-3) is frustrated with its ACC start, those three defeats came by a combined 15 points and though it is 1-2 against the Irish in ACC play, those meetings have been decided by the same total margin.
The Yellow Jackets opened conference play Jan. 3 with an 83-76 double-overtime road loss at Notre Dame, which shot 53.3 percent but was outrebounded 46-31, including 19-5 on the offensive glass.
Georgia Tech is last in the ACC in field-goal percentage (41.9) and 3-point shooting (24.1 percent) but hit its first three 3-pointers to take a 13-2 lead and made 47.8 percent of its shots in the second half.
”We played with great energy and great effort,” coach Brian Gregory said. ”We just couldn’t make quite enough plays.”
The Yellow Jackets also couldn’t contain Notre Dame swingman Pat Connaughton (14.3 points, 8.2 rebounds per game) who recorded half of his 10 points, two rebounds, a steal and a block in the second overtime.
Connaughton matched a season high with 21 points versus Virginia.
Teammate Jerian Grant (16.6 ppg) scored 24 on 10-of-18 shooting against Georgia Tech, but has totaled 14 and gone 3 of 16 in the last two contests. He’s 0 of 9 from 3-point range over the last three.
Averaging a team-leading 13.3 points, Georgia Tech’s Marcus Georges-Hunt had 20 at Notre Dame and scored 16 in Saturday’s 76-69 loss at Wake Forest.
The Yellow Jackets have lost five straight home games against ranked opponents since then-No. 19 Georgia Tech defeated No. 17 Clemson 66-64 on Jan. 19, 2010.