Feb. 27, 2014
By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word
– Robert Carter, Jr., had chances to tie the game Wednesday, when the Georgia Tech men’s basketballers fell short 65-62 at Notre Dame, and that was one of several significant differences between the teams’ first meeting as ACC rivals.
The Yellow Jackets won 74-69 on Jan. 11 in McCamish Pavilion, and Carter did not even play. He was on the mend from knee surgery. Wednesday, he missed a late 3-pointer to just barely keep his night from being spectacular.
Carter went for 19 points and 10 rebounds against the Irish in not only his best game since coming off Tech’s ever-populated injury list, but perhaps his most well rounded game of the season.
In a return to the starting lineup, he made half his 16 shots, and half of his six from beyond the 3-point arc. Still, he was sad.
“I had the chance to tie it with a couple good looks,” he said after the game. “And I know if I want to be a big time player, I have to make those big shots.”
Even with the misses, Carter was Tech’s most positive evolution between the first and second Notre Dame games by far and perhaps singularly.
News was not similarly uplifting in all areas, though, and a couple trouble spots had more to do with Tech falling short this time rather than coming out on top like the last. In a few ways, the Jackets came up much shorter the second time. Tech had one significant issue on the perimeter and another in the post.
Senior guard Trae Golden struggled mightily to follow up his encouraging performance in Saturday’s game against Clemson. He scored 17 points in that one, but was blanked at Notre Dame.
Where he hit 4-of-9 treys against the Tigers, Golden missed all five long balls against the Irish, and all 10 of his shots. He did not in 31 minutes register a rebound, either. In the first Notre Dame game, he had 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting, including 2-for-3 from distance. He also had four assists.
The groin pull that has bothered Golden lately has changed him, made him different. The Jackets seem always to be changing, and Golden is a poster subject for these evolutions.
When he’s right physically, his is an easy style to describe: he’s going to go hard at the basket, where frequently he will score, or draw enough contact to go to the free-throw line, or kick the ball to an open shooter.
That’s difficult now.
“Just because those guys are back doesn’t mean they’re whole,” head coach Brian Gregory said after the game. “You could see Trae … there are times when you don’t get the reps, don’t get the practice and you’re out of rhythm.
“I don’t think you’re going to see him [drive] as much [as earlier in the season].”
While Golden’s body makes it difficult to do what he’d prefer to do, it also enables opposing defenses to make his second option more difficult.
Gregory said earlier in the week, “He has to play differently than he did before, meaning we don’t score in transition. His explosiveness is not there . . . sometimes it allows the defense to switch a bigger guy onto him because the threat of him going by is not what it was a month ago.”
The other significant change between the games came in the post, where Notre Dame center Garrick Sherman, a fifth-year senior like Tech’s Daniel Miller, drew a better measure the second go-round.
At Tech more than a month earlier, Sherman got off to a particularly dreadful start before finishing with 13 points on 6-for-18 shooting. He added 13 rebounds.
Miller had 10 points, 13 rebounds, four blocked shots and two assists in that one.
Wednesday, the Irish center scored more points 21 on fewer shots (10-for-15) and grabbed five rebounds.
Miller pitched in six points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks as Gregory left him almost completely alone defensively.
“Give credit to Sherman; Daniel Miller is as good a post defender in the country at times. We didn’t give him a lot of help and Notre Dame did a good job of isolating him in the post. Anytime you give a post man three or four dribbles, it’s hard to guard him.”
Sherman’s success in the paint, combined with Golden’s inability to get there and the fact that another of Tech’s primary drivers, Marcus Georges-Hunt, is limited by a hip and other ailments, led to a 42-16 disparity in points scored in the lane – in favor of Notre Dame.
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