Forward Abdoulaye Gueye looked “rusty” to coach Josh Pastner in the first half of Georgia Tech’s matchup against Notre Dame on Tuesday.
Gueye missed the previous two games — Jan. 16 at Clemson and Jan. 19 at home against Louisville — with an unspecified medical condition. This came after a road win against Syracuse on Jan. 12, when Pastner said he felt his team was turning a pivotal corner.
That turn was put on hold by the absence of Gueye.
“It hurt us defensively and it hurt us inside, and our plan of attack did not have him going into the Clemson game, so we’re just not as good without him,” Pastner said.
Gueye returned to the starting lineup for the Yellow Jackets (11-8, 3-3 ACC) in the 63-61 win against the Fighting Irish (11-8, 1-5) on Tuesday night. While he earned a spot in the starting five, it was a tale of two halves for Gueye against Notre Dame.
“I thought (point guard) Jose (Alvardo) and ‘A.D.’ were a little rusty in the first half,” Pastner said. “There was some rustiness because they hadn’t done anything until (Tuesday) on the floor, so (Monday), they got some abbreviated, little work, but really (Tuesday) was the first thing they did in shootaround. It was good to get ’em back. We’re a better team with them.”
Alvarado sat out the game against Louisville because of a groin injury.
Gueye made 2 of 8 field-goal attempts in the first half Tuesday, including a miss on his only 3-point attempt. He had some key shots in the second half, including a dunk with 52 seconds left in the game, and shot 3-for-4 to finish the game with 13 points. He added two assists to the second half, one on a dunk by James Banks and the other on a jump shot by Khalid Moore.
He also improved on defense in the second half. He had one rebound in the first half and seven in the second. He had two steals, one in each half, and a block in the first 20 minutes.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey prepared his team to face Tech with Alvardo and Gueye on the floor, so their return in Tuesday’s matchup wasn’t a big surprise. Brey knew the type of player Gueye has been for Tech, and planned to face him on offense.
“Gueye’s just steady,” Brey said. “And he’s got a year under his belt now. He’s really good.”
Gueye has developed a consistent role on the team as a senior. He has scored 101 points, and is tied with Alvardo for the second most rebounds, with 66, and is averaging 3.9 rebounds per game this season.
Banks felt the return of Gueye to the floor Tuesday night. While the stat sheet doesn’t always show how much players such as Gueye bring to a game, he said, their toughness, will and drive to compete in the game is noticed.
“Having him down there definitely helps loosen it up a little bit,” Banks said. “Having another big body that can use angles to score, that the defense has to worry about just helps have them have to respect our offense and what we’re doing. Makes the defense work.”