Looking back at Georgia Tech’s 64-60 loss to Notre Dame Sunday night in South Bend, Ind.
Tech won effective field-goal percentage by keeping the Notre Dame way under its average (its ACC rate prior to Sunday was 53.2 percent) but won by taking much better care of the ball and getting to the free-throw line much more frequently. Both teams took 58 shots from the field, and Tech went to the line eight times while Notre Dame took 18 free throws, including a few at the end when the Jackets started to foul. The disparity is even more striking consider that Notre Dame took 29 3-pointers to Tech’s 15.
*Four factors follows the idea that the four statistics that most lead to success are effective field-goal percentage (which weights 3-point baskets proportionately), turnover percentage, offensive rebounding percentage and free throws per field-goal attempts.
Sunday night’s game, when placed in the whole of Georgia Tech’s ACC season, felt a little bit like the end of an NCAA first-round tournament game between maybe a No. 4 and No. 13 seed, when the underdog has thrown a huge scare into the favorite, perhaps taking a five-point lead into halftime and raising the possibility of a huge upset and then scrapping through the second half before finally being overtaken in the final few minutes, when it finally becomes apparent that it’s not going to happen.
There’s some disappointment and recognition of what might have been, but recognition for the effort and pluck that went into the attempt.
Tech came within a few possessions of earning what would have been a life-giving upset of the Irish at Purcell Pavilion, but Notre Dame proved the better team, able to withstand the Jackets’ withering defense by making just enough plays to secure victory. Two perpetual flaws on offense, inability to make layups and turnovers, were again costly.
It’s conceivable that the Yellow Jackets, after losing 64-60 to No. 21 Notre Dame, may still somehow find their way into the NCAA tournament by beating Pittsburgh and Syracuse and then making a run at the ACC tournament. It’s not as though they’re poorly. But the likelihood appears far greater that it won’t happen. I suspect fatigue is catching up a little bit, and not having forward Abdoulaye Gueye (fractured wrist) is a factor.
And if it doesn’t happen, it’s not a condemnation. The Jackets are playing teams that should win (the N.C. State and Boston College games aside) and those teams are mostly winning. Since reaching 5-4 in the ACC with its home win over Notre Dame, Tech is 2-5, not counting the Tusculum game. There were reasons for each loss – injury, illness, free-throw disparity, one or two players going cold, an opponent getting hot, etc. – but that probably could also partly explain how Tech got to 5-4.
5 things to know from Tech’s loss to Notre Dame: What it means for Jackets’ tournament chances, when the game was lost and more
Stat of the game
Tech’s assist/turnover ratio was 7/14, matching the Georgia game for the poorest of the season. The Jackets made plenty of mistakes with the ball, trying ill-advised passes, but Notre Dame, not a standout on defense, had extra time to prepare for the Jackets and played like it. There were few open shots at the basket.
“I think our ‘D’ was the difference,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
What Josh Pastner and Mike Brey had to say after the game: “I probably didn’t spent enough time emphasizing (Bonzie Colson’s) 3-point shooting. We really guarded everyone else, I thought, pretty well.”
Quote of the game
“When we miss those layups, it takes days, maybe years off my life. I hope not. I’d like to live past 100, but maybe every layup we miss costs me a few months. But it sure feels like it inside. It eats at me like you wouldn’t believe.” – coach Josh Pastner
Ben Lammers wins more praise from Mike Brey: “He made some unbelievable recovery blocks.”
Guard Josh Okogie earned the third double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds, three on the offensive glass. Okogie played with noticeable diligence on the glass. However, after making four of his first seven shots in the first six minutes of the game, he was 2-for-9 the rest of the way, missing a handful of makeable layups. However, he is 7-for-10 from 3-point range in the past four games. He has a nice stroke and shows judiciousness in shooting from beyond the arc.
Guard Josh Heath scored 12 points with a career-high nine rebounds, one rebound shy of the second double-double of his career. Heath saved a couple possessions by driving into the lane late in the shot clock and scoring on short jumpers.
Guard Tadric Jackson nearly rescued the Jackets with a late flourish, scoring eight points in the final 1:16. He scored a team-high 20 points on 9-for-17 shooting. He was 2-for-8 from 3-point range.
Center Ben Lammers picked up his 13th double-double of the season, third in the ACC, with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He took five of Tech’s eight free throws, making four. He was 4-for-11 from the field, missing jumpers he typically makes. He played 39 minutes, the fifth game in a row in which he has played either 39 or 40 minutes. In other words, he has been on the court for 197 out of a possible 200 minutes at arguably the most physical position on the floor. I asked Pastner if he thought maybe Lammers was running out of gas. He started to say “He might” before answering “He can’t. Because we don’t have any options. He has no option but to fight through it.”
Glitch costly in final minute for Georgia Tech: “We didn’t want to foul.”
From my iPhone
This is the former College Football Hall of Fame building in downtown South Bend, Ind. The building has been vacant since 2012, when it began its transition to Atlanta. An April 2015 report in the South Bend Tribune said that a deal had been reached for the building to become part of a 120-room hotel, but it basically looked exactly like it did the last time I stopped by in Jan. 2015.
As I wrote in a tweet, it sort of felt like running into a girl who had been dumped by a friend of yours.
On a personal note
Tech having Notre Dame as a permanent partner (along with Clemson) has worked out pretty well for me. I grew up outside of Chicago, and so I’ve been more or less ensured one trip home to see my parents every winter for the past four years, although I think last year I had to fly into Indianapolis.
My mom spoiled me, making some favorite dishes of mine, and I attended service at the church I grew up in Sunday morning. All in all, a pretty good visit. Alas, my parents’ home is not a Marriott property, so it’s a pretty big loss of points to stay with them. Hopefully they appreciate my sacrifice.