Associated Press Notre Dame guard Rex Pflueger has the ball knocked away by Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie during the first half Wednesday night in Atlanta. Okogie led the Yellow Jackets to victory scoring 17.
Associated Press Notre Dame guard TJ Gibbs is defended by Georgia Tech’s Ben Lammers and Brandon Alston as he drives to the basket in the first half Wednesday.
Thursday, January 11, 2018 1:00 am
Georgia Tech 60, Notre Dame 53
Shorthanded Irish fall short
Yellow Jackets get lift as Okogie returns to lead way in victory
PAUL NEWBERRY | Associated Press
ATLANTA – Back at full strength, Georgia Tech is starting to find its groove.
Without two of its best players, Notre Dame is trying to hold on.
Josh Okogie scored 17 points and Georgia Tech snapped Notre Dame's five-game winning streak, beating the depleted Irish 60-53 Wednesday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Irish were again missing two of their top players, preseason All-America selection Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell.
“You can't replace a Bonzie Colson and a Matt Farrell, especially what they do for this team,” Notre Dame forward John Mooney said. “It's tough to lose them. But we've got guys who are stepping up.”
Colson had surgery last week for a broken left foot and is expected to be out for at least eight weeks. Farrell, a senior point guard who is averaging 15.9 points a game, missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle.
Georgia Tech took advantage of their absence, handing Notre Dame just its second loss in the last eight games.
The teams were playing for the second time in 12 days. When Notre Dame won 68-59 on Dec. 30, Colson had 22 points and Farrell added 10.
“They're great players,” Georgia Tech center Ben Lammers said. “Even when you play great defense, they can still make plays. That can be disheartening at times.”
The Yellow Jackets (9-7, 2-1) pushed out to a 10-point halftime lead and held off Notre Dame (13-4, 3-1) for their second straight conference victory.
Okogie darted into the lane and banked in a jumper with 2:05 remaining to give the Yellow Jackets a 58-53 lead. He tacked on two free throws with 18.1 seconds left to clinch the victory.
Notre Dame's final points came on Mooney's dunk with 3:20 remaining. The Irish missed their final five shots, mirroring their struggles at the end of the first half.
With Okogie missing the first eight games because of an NCAA suspension and a finger injury, Georgia Tech got off to a miserable start that included losses to Grambling State, Wofford and Wright State.
“Unfortunately you can't petition the NCAA not to count the games pre-Christmas,” coach Josh Pastner said. “You can see from the product on the floor that the team is getting better.”
Notre Dame led 18-17 after Martinas Geben's dunk with nearly nine minutes remaining in the opening period but managed only two free throws the rest of the half.
The Irish clanked their last 11 shots from the field, also missed four free throws and turned it over three times, allowing Georgia Tech to put together a 13-2 run and a 10-point edge at the half.
Notre Dame's only lead of the second half, 38-37, came on Geben's layup with 11:59 to go. Lammers responded with a tip-in and Okogie's 3-pointer put Georgia Tech ahead to stay.
Geben led Notre Dame with 16 points, while Mooney and T.J. Gibbs had 11 apiece. The Irish made just under 36 percent from the field (21 of 59), including 4 of 18 from 3-point range.
Tadric Jackson added 11 points for Georgia Tech. Lammers chipped in with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Note: Notre Dame returns to South Bend for the first of two straight ACC home games, playing host to No. 20 North Carolina (13-4). “It's always exciting to play North Carolina, especially at home,” Mooney said. “It should be a good atmosphere with the students coming back” from the holiday break.