Veterans Fuel Notre Dame's Victory Over Georgia Tech
Notre Dame (13-8) is starting to gain some momentum in conference play, and in its 80-72 victory over Georgia Tech (10-12) the Irish relied on its veterans to overcome struggles on the defensive glass.
The Irish shot well against Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets dominated Notre Dame on the glass, out-rebounding the Irish 42-32, but it was the 20 offensive rebounds that led to 25 second chance points that kept the Yellow Jackets in the game.
Notre Dame also had to deal with a big day from Georgia Tech guard Jose Alvarado, who scored 25 points against the Irish.
But Notre Dame pulled out the hard-earned victory on the backs of its veterans. Senior forward John Mooney did what he’s been doing all season, dominating in a variety of ways. Mooney scored 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, hitting half of his 18 shots from the floor and knocking down 8-9 of his free throw attempts.
With Notre Dame leading 36-33 at the break, Alvarado and forward James Banks came out hot in the second half, combining to score nine points in the first four minutes. But Georgia Tech couldn’t get any distance from Notre Dame because of the Irish vets.
Mooney scored the first eight points of the second half, matching Alvarado and Banks shot for shot. Georgia Tech took its first lead of the second half on a pair of free throws from Banks, but Mooney went right to the rim on the opposite end and got a bucket and drew a foul.
Mooney wasn’t alone in the second half, and his fellow captains were clutch as well.
Senior guard TJ Gibbs continued his strong play, scoring 19 points on just nine shots. Like Mooney, Gibbs was aggressive and was able to get to the line, and when he got there he knocked down shots, making 7-8. Gibbs has now reached double figures for the ninth straight game, a stretch in which he’s scored 16.7 points per game.
After Georgia Tech tied the game at 48-48, Gibbs knocked down a pair of free throws and Mooney knocked down a triple on Notre Dame’s next possession to give the Irish the lead for good. Mooney, Gibbs and senior Rex Pflueger combined for 18 points during a nine minute stretch in which the Irish outscored Georgia Tech 23-11, breaking the game open.
The Jackets tried to claw back into the game, but Notre Dame was sharp from the free throw line as it put the game away. Notre Dames's senior captains combined for 60 points and knocked down 20 of 23 free throws. Sixteen of those free throws came in the second half.
Finishing had been an issue for Notre Dame most of the season, but for the second straight game the Irish pulled away from an opponent in the second half.
Pflueger provides Notre Dame with tremendous leadership, and his work on the defensive end is certainly an asset, but for much of the season he has provided very little on the offensive end. Against Georgia Tech he scored 13 important points, knocking down all three of his field goal attempts, which included both attempts from behind the arc.
Sophomore wing Dane Goodwin continued his efficient and strong play off the bench, scoring 14 points on 5-8 shooting to go with five rebounds.
Notre Dame made 23-28 from the free throw line, but Georgia Tech attempted just 12 shots from the charity stripe.
The Irish will play a third straight home game on Wednesday when it hosts the Pittsburgh Panthers (13-8).