Georgia Tech hit with 34-point loss at Notre Dame, its largest of the season

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – On Friday, Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner asserted that his team was a few shots here and there from being in eighth place in the ACC.

On Saturday, the Yellow Jackets looked very much like what they are – a last-place team among the 15 in the standings. Notre Dame tossed in 3-pointers with abandon, and the Jackets responded with a meek offensive performance, resulting in a 90-56 loss for Tech at Purcell Pavilion. The 34-point margin of defeat was the Jackets’ largest of the season as Tech gave up the final 10 points of the game.

“I don’t even know if we didn’t play well, to be honest with you,” Pastner said. “There’s things we’ve got to do better and weren’t real good in some areas. I just think Notre Dame was really good (Saturday).”

Tech (11-18, 4-14 ACC) fell back into a tie for last with N.C. State with the defeat, its sixth in its past seven games. Notre Dame (21-8, 14-4) became the fourth team to sweep the Jackets and clinched a top-four finish in the conference and the accompanying double-bye for the ACC tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y., starting March 8. The possibility grew that Tech will become the first team since Virginia in 1977 to follow an ACC championship with a last-place finish in the following season.

Tech finishes with a game at Clemson on Wednesday and a home game Saturday against Boston College. N.C. State finishes with road games at Florida State and Wake Forest. The game did not fit with several recent games in which the Jackets have played better than earlier in the season, the final results aside.

“So can we get over the hump?” Pastner asked. “I believe we can get over the hump, but time is running out and I recognize that, but let’s see what happens this week.”

Tech was out of it almost from the start Saturday. The Jackets fell behind 6-0 and 16-6 and lost contact for good with the Fighting Irish with a 10-0 run toward the end of the first half that expanded their lead from 28-19 to 38-19.

“I thought we were a little flat, but I think Notre Dame can make you do that, too,” Pastner said.

As the Irish scored on four consecutive possessions, guard Michael Devoe lost the ball on a steal, missed two long 3-pointers and then freshman guard Jalon Moore got his shot blocked in the lane. The capper came from Notre Dame guard Dane Goodwin, who, having made back-to-back 3-pointers, got forward Jordan Usher to bite on a pump fake from 3-point range and then drove past him for a layup.

“They had all their guns blazing (Saturday),” Usher said. “We didn’t have enough cards on the table. Energy-wise, we should have come out harder and when they’re hitting those 3′s, they make you second guess on your closeouts, so it was tough.”

Notre Dame continued to build its lead in the second half as the Irish’s perimeter shooting opened up the Tech interior. Notre Dame made 13 of 23 3-point tries (56.5%) as four Fighting Irish players scored in double figures, led by Goodwin’s 17, all in the first half. At the basket, the Irish made 15 of 23 layup tries and put down four dunks. The 13 3-pointers were the most given up this season by Tech, which entered the game third in the ACC in 3-point percentage defense in league games (31.7%). The Jackets had held six of their past seven opponents to 31.3% shooting or less from 3-point range.

“I think we got stretched,” Pastner said. “They made those 3′s early and then we got stretched out. We weren’t good in either interior or exterior. (Center) Rodney (Howard) wasn’t as good (Saturday) defensively as he’s been, but part of that is they start making those 3′s early, and then you start stretching out and then they open some things up.”

The Irish matched their season scoring high with 90 points.

“(Saturday), everyone seemed like they were in a groove, and that’s a good feeling,” Notre Dame guard Cormac Ryan said.

As the Irish were filling up the basket, Tech did itself in by missing its first seven 3-point tries and finishing 4-for-20 for the game, which tied its season low for percentage (20%). Tech was led by Usher’s 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Tech was 9-for-19 on layup tries as Jackets players missed a series of makeable shots at the rim. Aside from tying their season low in turnovers with seven, the Jackets did very little well with the ball in their hands.

Pastner was not nearly as disappointed in Tech’s performance against Notre Dame as he was after the 76-61 loss to the Wolfpack on Feb. 15, a game that Tech trailed by 30 points early in the second half. Pastner saw that game as the result of poor defense, where Saturday’s result was the product of a Notre Dame team playing at its best along with his own team missing shots that it normally makes, many of them wide open. Guard Deebo Coleman, for instance, was 0-for-8 from the field and 0-for-6 from 3-point range. He came into the game shooting 41.0% on all field-goal tries and 45.2% from behind the 3-point arc.

“It was unbelievable the amount of layups we missed,” Pastner said. “We left so many points on the board from missed 3′s and from layups and open 3′s and just point-blank layups. It’s a recipe for disaster when the other team is literally making every shot.”