“It sucks,” guard Jose Alvarado said. “Like I said before, we’ve got to protect our home court. We’ve got to try to look past this and try to get another one on Saturday.”
Notre Dame (11-6, 2-4) picked up a needed win after losing its past two on end-of-game situations.
The Fightiing Irish rallied late and claimed a 78-74 win over the Yellow Jackets at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta. (Courtesy of ACC)
“I thought it was really important, as I’m watching this game unfold, like, we really need to finish this one,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “Because if you lose a third end-game situation (game) and you’re 1-5 (in league play), you’re (in trouble).”
After going into halftime trailing 29-27, Tech exploded for 47 points in the second half. The Jackets shot 67.9 percent from the field in the half and had their largest lead of the game, 47-41, midway through the second half.
But it was in vain. As it enjoyed its own scoring outburst, the typically stingy Jackets gave up 49 second-half points.
Pastner rued what followed after the 47-41 lead. Alvarado defended a screen improperly, giving Notre Dame guard Dane Goodwin the space to hit a 3-pointer, the first 3 for the Irish in the second half after seven consecutive misses. Not long after, Alvarado turned the ball over on consecutive possessions while Notre Dame guard T.J. Gibbs scored against Alvarado and then fed teammate Prentiss Hubb for a tough basket to help the Irish take a 50-49 lead with 8:26 remaining.
Plenty of time remained, and the Jackets took the lead on two separate possessions after that. But an opportunity had been lost.
“He’s our guy,” Pastner said of Alvarado. “But that segment right there when we were maybe ready to pull away, that allowed them to hang around. You’ve got to give Notre Dame credit for that.”
A critical sequence unfolded in the final minutes. After forward Moses Wright’s free throws drew Tech to within 65-64 at the 2:00 mark, Hubb drove on Alvarado. His shot missed, but he scored on a tip-in to restore the lead to 67-64 with 1:37 to play.
Early in the next possession, Wright missed a 3-pointer from the wing, and Gibbs answered with a long 3 at the 1:04 mark to push the lead to 70-64, the Irish’s largest lead of the half.
The Jackets were forced to chase, and Notre Dame made enough free throws to finish off Tech.
After the game, Pastner said that Alvarado made the wrong read in passing to Wright on the wing, and that he was O.K. with Wright’s shot. Wright was 4-for-19 for the season from 3-point range before that shot. He had attempted only two 3-point tries in the previous three games.
“I’d prefer Moses be shooting shots in the paint, but you’re there wide open,” Pastner said. “It was really more on Jose making the read.”
In the loss, Alvarado set a career high with nine assists, as he again was deft playing off ball screens set by Wright and center James Banks. But Alvarado lamented his three turnovers.
“I personally think I lost this game for my team – three turnovers and I wasn’t executing at a high level as a guard should do in the ACC at the end,” he said. “I’m going to work on it.”
For the game, Tech turned the ball over 13 times, which is four below its season average and tied its low for an ACC game, but was still five more than Notre Dame, which entered the game No. 2 in Division I in fewest turnovers per game.
It was another costly lesson for the Jackets, who can’t afford many more losses to remind them of the importance of ball security. Tech is getting better, but can still be so much better in its decision making with the ball.
“The difference was the offensive rebounds – they had five more offensive rebounds and they had five less turnovers,” Pastner said. “That created seven more shots for them, and that’s the game right there. Nothing else matters. That’s the basketball game.”
Guard Michael Devoe led the Jackets with 22 points and nine rebounds, tying his career high in the latter category.