Five observations from Georgia Tech’s win over No. 19 Notre Dame

Georgia Tech got one to go its way.

Guard Marcus Georges-Hunt’s drive to the basket crawled over the rim and fell through the basket with one second remaining, giving the Yellow Jackets a 63-62 win over No. 19 Notre Dame on Saturday night at McCamish Pavilion.

It was a cathartic win for the Jackets, who have assembled a staggering list of defeats in the final minutes of ACC games in the past two seasons. After leading by seven at halftime, Tech surrendered the lead to the Irish and trailed 60-54 with three minutes to play before finishing the game on a 9-2 run.

“Happy for our guys,” coach Brian Gregory said. “We’ve had some disappointing times and tough times, and our guys keep fighting through it.”

Tech has won back-to-back regular-season ACC games for the first time since the last two games of the 2013-14 regular season. The Jackets have also won three out of four regular-season league games for the first time in Gregory’s tenure. They can make it three in a row – which Tech has not done against ACC teams in the regular season since the 2007-08 season – Tuesday against Clemson.

Notre Dame (18-8, 9-5 ACC) had won four consecutive games over the Jackets, all by eight points or fewer. Tech (15-12, 5-9) was led by Georges-Hunt with 19 points to go with seven assists against just one turnover.

Here are five observations from the game.

The game-winner. With 10.4 seconds remaining and Tech down 62-61, Quinton Stephens inbounded the ball near half-court to Adam Smith, who dribbled to the middle and passed to Georges-Hunt on the right wing with about five seconds left. With Notre Dame guard Steve Vasturia defending, Georges-Hunt drove hard to the baseline. After Vasturia cut him off, Georges-Hunt spun to the middle and got off a shot from about four feet with three Notre Dame players challenging.

“(Vasturia) gave me enough space to get a head of steam a little bit, and once he cut me off, I spun back,” Georges-Hunt said. “I was thinking somebody was going to be right there, but he was a step late, and as I spun, I had an opportunity to get my eye on the rim and I locked in and put up a shot.”

The ball hung on the front of the rim and fell through.

“It took forever to go in,” Georges-Hunt said. “It felt like it just sat there for a second and then finally just rolled in.”

Two in a row. The Jackets may have some momentum going after defeating Florida State on the road last Wednesday. Tech stood equal to teams considered superior and secured the victories by making plays and shots when necessary, actions that the Jackets have been unable to execute this season and last. Tech had lost 10 in a row to FSU, nine of them by 10 points or fewer, and four in a row to Notre Dame before turning the tables on both.

“I think they earned it,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “I think they’re playing better. I think they’re a confident team right now after how they played at Florida State.”

Jacobs plays big. Forward Nick Jacobs, whose lack of rebounding vigor has been a source of frustration for Gregory, played an influential role Saturday. He had 12 rebounds, tying his career high and bettering his combined total from the previous four games by two, and also helped limit Notre Dame forward Zach Auguste to 13 points. Auguste was the difference in the Irish's win over the Jackets in January, scoring 24 points on 13 shots. Jacobs was much better defending Auguste off ball screens. He also took a charge from Auguste in the first half – Auguste's second foul of the half – that sent him to the bench for the final 8:07 of the half. Jacobs also scored nine points.

Jacobs actually told Gregory prior to the game that he would get 12 rebounds.

“B.G. was like, Nick, if you get me 12 rebounds, we’re going to win the game,” Jacobs said. “I said, ‘Alright, Coach. Deal.’”

When the game was won. The Jackets were down 60-54 when Auguste scored on a layup with 4:42 left in the game. The Irish, down seven at halftime, had scored on 10 of their past 12 possessions. With perhaps the most efficient offense in the country scoring on second-chance baskets, open 3-pointers and from the free-throw line, Notre Dame appeared to be closing out another hard-fought loss for the Jackets.

However, Georges-Hunt said his teammates weren’t down, but instead encouraging each other to get a defensive stop.

“That’s what we were telling each other,” he said. “Everybody was into it.”

Tech got stops on four of Notre Dame’s final five possessions, once forcing a shot-clock violation, never giving up an offensive rebound and, on Notre Dame’s last possession (not counting the desperation heave after Georges-Hunt’s game-winner that was off target), forced a held ball that gave Tech possession.

Forward Charles Mitchell scored on a quick post-up and then on a tip-in of a Georges-Hunt miss to cut the lead to two, 60-58. After an Auguste lay-in pushed the lead back to four with 1:10 to play, Smith bottomed out a 3-pointer to reduce the lead to one with 50 seconds left, setting the stage for the final stop and Georges-Hunt’s game-winner.

Said Gregory, “Our execution the last four possessions was tremendous.”

Shorter rotation. Gregory relied heavily on his five starters – Georges-Hunt, Smith, Jacobs, Mitchell and Stevens. They played 161 of the 200 available minutes. Gregory has often gone 10 deep and, coming into the game, the Jackets had 10 players averaging 12 minutes or more in league games.

Saturday, point guards Josh Heath and Travis Jorgenson and big men Ben Lammers and James White played a total of 25 minutes, about 36 minutes below their combined average.