Georgia Tech losing streak comes to end vs. Notre Dame

Georgia Tech celebrates after beating Notre Dame Wednesday night. Photo courtesy of Georgia Tech Athletics/Danny Karnik.

Credit: Georgia Tech Athletics/Danny Karnik

Credit: Georgia Tech Athletics/Danny Karnik

Georgia Tech celebrates after beating Notre Dame Wednesday night. Photo courtesy of Georgia Tech Athletics/Danny Karnik.

With a buzzer-beating tip-in, Georgia Tech’s anguishing losing streak reached its end. Guard Lance Terry scored on a tip-in of a missed jumper by guard Kyle Sturdivant as time expired to defeat Notre Dame 70-68 Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion.

With it, the Yellow Jackets’ nine-game losing streak – their longest since the 1980-81 season – was snapped. Terry’s putback ended a game that neither team appeared capable of seizing in the final minutes. After Notre Dame forward Nate Laszewski scored on a putback with 2:44 to play to cut Tech’s lead to 68-66, neither team scored a basket until Terry’s game-winner. The final play initiated with Terry inbounding the ball from the right sideline with 5.3 seconds remaining. In a timeout, coach Josh Pastner drew up a play for Sturdivant to get the ball and get a shot off going to his left.

“I thought it was going in, so I just went ahead and ran anyway,” said Terry, who scored a game-high 19 points. “But when I saw it go short, I thought, ‘Let me just go up and try to tip it in’ and it just happened to fall.”

Before the buzzer beater, the two teams combined to miss nine consecutive field-goal attempts, play indicative of teams that came into the game in last place (Tech) and 13th place (Notre Dame) in the ACC. Had the Jackets lost, a failed dunk try by Terry with 1:07 left and the score tied at 68 would have been a moment to rue. However, with credit for the game-winning score, Terry was able to laugh it off.

“As far as the dunk, I could have sworn I had it until I didn’t,” he said. “It felt great, and then when I saw it didn’t go in, I was like, ‘That’s not good.’ So I just tried to hurry up and get back on defense.”

Regardless of the path, it was relief for Tech and Pastner, who leaped and threw his fists in the air after Terry’s score before quickly regaining his composure to shake hands with Notre Dame coach Mike Brey. The Jackets’ last win was against Miami Jan. 4, more than a month ago. Since, Tech stumbled again and again as poor shooting, ineffective interior defense, errant and limited free-throw shooting, ill-timed turnovers and more skilled opponents variously sabotaged its efforts. Saturday at N.C. State, the Jackets led by three with four minutes to play but then failed to score again until 25 seconds remained and lost 72-64.

“It should give the guys good confidence,” Pastner said. “We’ve got to have a good practice tomorrow and I can finally go to sleep. I haven’t slept in about a month. Literally.”

Tech (9-15, 2-12 ACC) earned the season split with Notre Dame (10-14, 2-11), which beat the Jackets in overtime in the teams’ first meeting Jan. 10 in South Bend, Ind.

In his final visit to McCamish before he steps down at the end of his 23rd season with the Irish, Brey was witness to one more dramatic finish in the series. All 10 games at McCamish since Notre Dame joined the ACC prior to the 2013-14 season have been decided by seven points or fewer and seven have been decided by three points or fewer or in overtime.

“Just incredible games,” Pastner said.

Aside from Terry, guard Deivon Smith (eight points, seven assists and nine rebounds with no turnovers), forward Ja’von Franklin (16 points, nine rebounds and three assists) and guard Deebo Coleman (11 points and four rebounds) carried the freight for the Jackets.

“I thought Deivon was outstanding (Wednesday),” Pastner said.

The Jackets were required to rally to obtain victory. Notre Dame took a 60-54 lead by reeling off a 12-2 run that was finished off by a transition 3-pointer by Irish guard Dane Goodwin with 7:59 to play. The basket was followed immediately by a timeout by Pastner.

Poor shot selection “led to opportunities for Notre Dame,” Pastner said. “When we play the right way and move the ball and play crisp and clean and play the right way, good things happen.”

Out of the timeout, the Jackets made their next four field-goal attempts, and then Coleman was fouled on a 3-point try. A 66% free-throw shooter this season, Coleman made all three attempts to give his team a 65-64 lead with 3:32 remaining.

“Humongous free throws,” Pastner said.

Ultimately, the rest of the season will determine how much meaning can be ascribed to Wednesday’s win. On one hand, it was a hard-fought win in which the Jackets prevailed even without much help from leading scorer Miles Kelly (four points, two rebounds), a result that could increase players’ resolve and confidence.

“I think we’ve been practicing very well,” Franklin said. “Everybody’s been buying into what coach (Pastner) has been saying. We’re not just giving up.”

On the other hand, the Jackets barely scraped out a win at home over a team with arguably the weakest defense in the conference. Tech plays Saturday at Wake Forest, which figures to be a much more resistant opponent.

“It just felt great,” Terry said. “Going to try to keep it going next game.”