In what proved to be a nail-biter in the final two minutes, No. 21 Notre Dame was able to hit just enough free throws to clinch the crucial 64-60 win vs Georgia Tech.
With the victory, the Irish jump into a tie for second place in the ACC with Florida State and Louisville. The final week of the ACC will see a tremendous amount of fluctuation, but the Irish are primed to earn the coveted double-bye that comes with a top-four finish.
Bonzie Colson continued his campaign for ACC Player of the Year as the junior led the Irish with 20 points and 11 rebounds and was the lone offensive force for ND.
Georgia Tech used a matchup zone defensively and it was effective as Vasturia and Beachem were not on their game from beyond the arc.
Every time the Irish looked like they were about to extend the lead to double-digits, the Yellow Jackets would fight back. Before Sunday’s game Georgia Tech was the last team in the field according to Joe Lunardi, but come tomorrow they will be on the outside looking in.
– Colson notched his 17th double-double of the year.
– All eight matchups between ND and Georgia Tech as ACC colleagues have been decided by eight points or less.
– As previously mentioned, the matchup zone tends to be very effective against ND. If the Irish are hot from three, they can blow a team out of the building, but when they are cold, that defense takes away ND’s cutting lanes and forces them to be overly-reliant on the deep ball.
– Part of the reason the Yellow Jackets matchup with ND defensively so well is because they generally only play one big guy like the Irish.
– Yes, ND registered 10 threes, but it took 29 attempts to reach that. Corner threes are a matchup zone’s weakness and ND had plenty of open looks, but couldn’t convert. When a team misses a few open looks early against a zone, it can get into a team’s head and cause them to hesitate and lose some aggression.
– Another result of playing against a matchup zone is that a team tends to settle for jump shots as opposed to driving to the hole and getting to the line. The Irish only had eight free throw attempts before GT intentionally fouled in the final minute.
– One of the key moments of the game was when the Irish were up four with three minutes remaining and Matt Farrell converted a desperation heave from the corner as the shot clock was running out. It was a backbreaking momentum shot that gave the Irish enough of a margin to hang on at the end.
– Other than Colson, the starting five combined to go 10-34 from the field – nothing came easy and Notre Dame was never able to establish any offensive rhythm.
– For as good as Colson was on offense, he was also very effective on the defensive end. Colson’s length effects dump in passes to the post and alters interior shot attempts.
– Austin Torres again forced ND fans to close their eyes when he goes to the free throw line. His hustle is always a huge plus for the Irish and Torres was 1-2 from the charity stripe Sunday, but his miss was an airball miss to the right…not sure I’ve seen anyone do that.
– I’m don’t think we will see Martin Geben log any meaningful playing time for the remainder of the season. The junior never took off his warm-ups Sunday and with the effective team rebounding (Vasturia and Pflueger combined for nine rebounds Sunday), his presence is not as necessary as it was during the first half of the season.
– I’ve said it before, but Matt Ryan will win a game for Notre Dame this year. Sunday wasn’t that game, but the sophomore got an increase in playing time and accounted for three points. His presence stretches the defense, especially against a zone.
– Some will look at the box score and say ND should have beaten GT by more than four. However, the fact is Georgia Tech is a good team and bolster the second best defensive team in the conference. The Yellow Jackets are desperate with their backs against the wall regarding their tournament fate, so the Irish knew they were going to see GT’s best effort.
– The Irish were stout defensively. They team rebounded effectively and have fantastic three-point defense. The Yellow Jackets were just 3-15 from three and only converted one in the first 39 minutes of the game.
– Sunday marked ND’s 11th ACC win of the season. Mike Brey has tallied at least 10 conference wins in 12 of his 17 seasons in South Bend.
– The Irish clearly weren’t at their best Sunday, but good teams find ways to win when they aren’t playing well. Over the next three weeks, the Irish won’t be clicking on all cylinders all the time, but the veteran presence has been there before and knows how to gut out victories.
Stay tuned to The Otter Room for a complete preview of Wednesday’s game vs. Backup College.