Nov. 19, 2007
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands – Matt Causey didn’t start any of the games of the Paradise Jam, but the senior point guard finished the tournament with a flourish, leading a thrilling comeback to down Notre Dame 70-69 and capture third place in the St. Thomas tournament.
After trailing nearly the entire game, the Jackets mounted a furious rally in the final five minutes to close within two points with 18 seconds left. On the team’s final possession, Causey looked for the Jackets’ top scoring threats but then took matters into his own hands and drilled a deep three-pointer with two seconds left in the game.
“I just wanted to get the ball to Anthony Morrow or Lewis Clinch, our two best scorers,” Causey explained after the game. “They didn’t get open, and Jeremis (Smith) popped out so I hit him. I saw the time running down, so I knew to go get the ball. He made a good pass and screen. I just hit the shot.”
“I just saw Matt come around with his eyes wide open, and I just gave it back to him,” said Smith, who finished with five assists in addition to his 12 points and 13 rebounds. “Nothing special about it.”
Paul Hewitt described it as a broken play, but how did the shot feel when it left Causey’s hands?
“Yeah, I knew it was going in when I let it go,” Causey laughed.
The shot set off a wild celebration on the Georgia Tech bench and among the standing-room only crowd at the arena on the campus of the University of the Virgin Islands.
The Jackets trailed almost the entire night, and the Irish kept them at arm’s length most of the second half. They built their largest lead of nine points at the 5:11 mark and seemed to thwart every Tech attempt to shift the momentum.
As the Jackets heated up from behind the arc, they clawed their way back into the game. Eight of their last nine field goals were three-pointers, including three in the final 1:14 of the game. Overall, the team shot over 47 percent from the field and featured five scorers in double-digits.
“We did a better job of finding open guys, and we were shooting with some confidence,” said Clinch, who finished with 12 points. “We still have a lot of work to do, but we took a step in the right direction.”
The team heads back to Atlanta with a 3-2 record and a week off before traveling to Indiana next Tuesday. While the loss to Winthrop Saturday night may have put a damper on the trip, Hewitt sat on a bench in the locker room after the game and stressed some of the positives from the excursion.
“I come away from this tournament very encouraged,” he stated. “I saw some very good things yesterday, and I saw better things today. We just have to eliminate those breakdowns. We can’t have those mental lapses.”
“Last night, we had a 10-point lead, and we stopped getting down into our defensive stance, we stopped boxing out, we stopped rebounding,” added Smith. “We started playing for ourselves instead of the playing for the team. We got too comfortable last night, and we didn’t fall into that comfort zone tonight. That’s how we need to play the rest of the year.”
After Causey’s three, the Irish (2-2) took two timeouts to set up an inbounds play, then got the ball to midcourt and called their last timeout with 1.4 seconds left. Kyle McAlarney got off a three-point try, but it rattled in and out at the buzzer.
Luke Harangody led Notre Dame with 22 points, while Rob Kurz added 15, Zach Hillesland scored 12 and Jackson 10.