Observations, stats and quotes from Georgia Tech’s 63-61 win over Notre Dame Tuesday at McCamish Pavilion. Game story here.
1. Big game for Khalid Moore
Freshman forward Khalid Moore gave the Jackets 16 important minutes off the bench. He scored two big baskets during the Jackets’ 11-3 getaway in the second half, first somehow knocking in a jump shot off the glass to beat the shot clock and then finishing a layup on the break. Moore was fouled as he was going up, lost control of the ball, regained it and put it off the glass. (He missed the ensuing free throw.)
He had seven points on 3-for-3 shooting (including a 3-pointer), his high scoring game in ACC play.
As a freshman, Moore isn’t going to deliver like that in every game, but he was vital Tuesday. Center James Banks called him a “shot in the arm” in the game. He has come a ways. He played a total of 26 minutes with eight points and three rebounds in Tech’s first three games of the season, and is now averaging 17.3 minutes per game in ACC play with 4.2 points and 1.8 rebounds. Not ACC all-freshman team numbers or anything, but more than you might have thought in November.
2. Tough night for Curtis Haywood
In the starting lineup again, guard Curtis Haywood was puzzlingly cold, going 0-for-5 from 3-point range on a lot of clear looks at the basket and went scoreless for the first time this season. His body language after his final two misses reflected his frustration, and he was taken out for good after the fifth and final miss, at the 11:47 mark. He had entered the game shooting 36.5 percent from 3-point range.
Still, he contributed in other ways. He boxed out with effort, closed out on shooters and turned the ball over once in 24 minutes. He read Notre Dame’s offense and used his length for a steal, his seventh game in a row with at least one steal.
3. Back to .500
Tech improved to 3-3 in the ACC. After the game, Pastner was asked if he would have taken that at the start of the season.
“Considering everything, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “Absolutely.”
This is a team that was reasonably projected to finish 13th in the ACC, and right now is in eighth place. Things could go downhill very quickly for Tech, given that the next three games are at No. 2 Duke, home against No. 11 North Carolina and on the road against Florida State, an Elite Eight team last year that has started slowly in league play.
The road win at Syracuse is the only one win of the three that would give one pause, as beating Wake Forest and Notre Dame at home were hardly surprises, especially given that both teams are down. Still, they also almost beat Virginia Tech and the two losses were in shorthanded situations, and not everyone would have expected the Jackets to beat Notre Dame or Wake Forest when the season began.
Tech finished 6-12 in the ACC last year. To exceed that – which, considering what the Jackets lost from last year’s team, would be an achievement – the Jackets need to win four out of the next 12.
That might mean going 3-2 at home the rest of the way (North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Pittsburgh, Boston College) and stealing just one win out of the final seven road games (Duke, Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Miami, Virginia and N.C. State).
It doesn’t mean they can’t do better. But considering the fight it took to beat a down Notre Dame at home, they’ll probably have to win some dogfights to get to seven wins. And 7-11 doesn’t exactly have a lot of sizzle. It’d be a 15-16 overall record. But it’d be a step in the right direction and a notable one.
4. A little lucky
Tech was fortunate to win with 14 turnovers and permitting Notre Dame to obtain 20 offensive rebounds, nearly as many as the Jackets’ 25 defensive rebounds. The 20 offensive rebounds were, in fact, the most that a Tech opponent has recorded going back to at least the 2010-11 season, according to sports-reference.com. (That season is the limit of the website’s database.)
It also tied Notre Dame’s high in a regulation game going back to the 2010-11 season. Tech has not been strong on the defensive glass, but Tuesday was an outlier.
“The one thing with man to man, you have accountability (with defensive rebounding), because in the zone it’s more area rebounding and (there are) bounces, because long shots (as are often taken against zones) can be long rebounds,” Pastner said. “That is a concern. There’s no doubt about it.”
It was kind of a weird night in regards to defensive rebounding – the Jackets had their hands on a lot of balls but couldn’t secure them. Regardless, with so many second chances, Notre Dame took 65 shots to Tech’s 52, a bit of a disparity.
Notre Dame scored 18 second-chance points. Tech was saved by its defense and Notre Dame shooting 5-for-19 (26.3 percent) from 3-point range (below its season rate of 33.7 percent), missing on a lot of open looks. Notre Dame shot 32.3 percent from the field, its season low. (In recent games, Syracuse and Virginia Tech also had season lows for field-goal percentage against the Jackets.)
“They’re hard to deal with, but they’re going to be hard to score on for everybody, so they’re going to be in games,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “They’re just always going to be there.”
Pastner’s response to a partial question about Saturday’s game at No. 2 Duke (he began answering before it was completed):
“For 72 hours (after the Louisville loss), I was sick to my stomach after Saturday. I barely slept, thinking how important this (Notre Dame) game was. I mean, there’s no question the stress I put on myself the last three days was incredible. So, yes, I want to enjoy the win, but I know you’re probably going to ask about Saturday. We’ll get right to working on it, but my whole thing is, it’s the ACC. Everyone’s good. We’ll have to play. It’s a road game. We’ll have to play near perfection in what we want to do. Look, they’ve got great players, but we’ll be ready to play and we’ll be ready to compete and we’ll dig into the game plan.”