#TGW: Baseline Established

Jan. 4, 2015

By Jon Cooper | The Good Word

– Georgia Tech didn’t come out of the Joyce Center with a win in their ACC opener against No. 14 Notre Dame, an 83-76 double-overtime loss, but they certainly came out encouraged by their effort.

“I feel like we showed a great effort,” said guard Marcus Georges-Hunt, who led the Yellow Jackets with 20 points on 7-of-19 shooting. “We came out and played with a lot of confidence. I feel like we grew a lot throughout this game and did a lot of great things. We’ll go and watch film and prepare for the next one.”

Georges-Hunt, who also had eight rebounds and two steals, nearly sent the Jackets home winners, as his layup with 43 seconds remaining gave the Jackets a 59-58 lead, then, with the game tied, he had his final lay-up attempt blocked.

Charles Mitchell recorded his fourth double-double as a Yellow Jacket going for 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting and 12 rebounds (six at each end) and Chris Bolden added a season-high 14.

Tech faced down a hostile crowd and a red-hot team that had won nine straight games and was 11-0 at Purcell Pavilion. They quickly took the crowd out of the game, scoring 11 straight points to take a 13-2 lead at the 17:01 mark and led the rest of the half, taking a 31-27 lead into intermission. The Jackets made the Fighting Irish and its crowd continue to sweat, leading until the 9:14 mark of the second half.

“We just committed to what Coach (Brian Gregory) told us before the game and all we prepared for,” said Georges-Hunt. “We just wanted to slow them down and run them off the three-point line. We did a great job. They didn’t hit too many threes and I think we did a great job with that.”

The Fighting Irish, which came in shooting a nation-best .554 and .416 from the three-point line, sixth nationally, were kept a tad below their average from the field (.533 for the game) and well below their average from three, shooting 1-for-12 from behind the arc in regulation and 4-for-19 for the game. Tech’s pressure on the ball also forced the normally careful Fighting Irish into turnovers, as they committed a season-high 13 (good for 14 points).

Notre Dame finally broke through, using a 10-2 run to take a three-point lead midway through the second half, and led by four with 4:25 to go, but Tech went on a 5-0 run and regained the lead with 2:32 left on Chris Bolden’s second three of the game. That was the first of three lead changes over the next 1:49. A free throw by Jerian Grant tied the game with 26 seconds to play.

“When we do the things we have to do we can play with anyone in the country,” said Georges-Hunt. “A lot of discipline, a total commitment, that’s what it takes.”

Tech showed great resilience and mental strength in the first overtime period, as Notre Dame made an 8-2 run to open the first extra session, including getting back-to-back three-pointers, one more than they’d hit the first 40 minutes.

Back came the Jackets. They took advantage of Notre Dame’s missing four straight free throws and tied the game when Demarco Cox tipped in a Georges-Hunt runner with 12 seconds left to knot the game at 69.

In the second overtime, the home team again started on an 8-2 run, sparked by Pat Connaughton, who scored five points, matching his total for the first 45 minutes. But this time it simply was too much for Tech to overcome.

While the loss certainly stung, the Jackets can take pride in the scare they gave the Irish, who they’ll see again at McCamish Pavilion on Jan.14.

They also took a step toward establishing their identity. They displayed the kind of hustle they’ve showed all season long. Tech dominated the boards, earning a whopping 46-31 edge on the glass, 19-5 on the offensive end. It was the 11th time in 12 games that they outrebounded the opposition (the other game was even) and the seventh time they did so by at least 10 boards — Tech has outrebounded the opposition by at least nine in each of the last six games. The Jackets also won the battle on the offensive glass for the 11th time. The 19 ORBs were one off the season high (as was the plus-14 margin) and marked the third time in six games they won by at least 10 offensive rebounds. Pounding the offensive glass led to 17 second-chance points, where Tech had a 17-9 edge. It was the 10th time they won that battle and the second straight games they had 17 second-chance points.

“That’s every game. Coach has enforced that people to look to the glass,” said Georges-Hunt, who had three ORBs. “When we get second and third shots it puts a lot on our opponent. Knowing that we’re great offensively rebounding and defensively we keep a lot of pressure on our opponents.”

The Jackets will have a couple of days to watch film and get ready for Syracuse on Wednesday in the ACC home opener. Coming off Saturday, it’s a game the team is even more excited about.

“There’s going to be a lot of spirit. It’s going to be like the way we came out today,” he said. “Playing in front of the home crowd is going to be great. Being that’s it’s ACC home opener, the guys are going to be looking forward it.”

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