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February 26, 2014

Preview: Georgia Tech vs. ND

Untitled Document

Game 29: Georgia Tech (13-14, 4-10) @ Notre Dame (14-14, 5-10)
Date: Feb. 26, 2014
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Place: Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame, Ind.
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Nickname: Yellow Jackets
Location: Atlanta, Ga.
2012-13 record: 16-15 (6-12 in ACC)
All-time leading scorer: Rich Yunkus (1968-71) - The Benton, Ill., product played just three years due to the NCAA’s freshman-ineligibility rule, but the 6-foot-9, 215-pounder scored 2,232 points and grabbed 955 rebounds. He averaged 26.6 points and 11.4 rebounds per game for the Yellow Jackets.

Head coach
Brian Gregory (3rd year at Georgia Tech) - Gregory, 49, had a 172-94 record at Dayton over an eight-year span, earning two NCAA tournament bids and winning at least 22 games in five of those seasons. That landed him the Georgia Tech job, where his team improved from 11-20 in his first season (2011-12) to 16-15 last year. He is 40-49 at Georgia Tech and 212-143 overall in his 11th year as a head coach.

You should know
That the Yellow Jackets are just 3-8 since their 74-69 victory at home against the Irish on Jan. 11. Their only victories have come against Boston College on the road (68-60), Wake Forest on the road (79-70), and Boston College at home (74-71). The eight losses - Pittsburgh, Miami, at North Carolina State in overtime, North Carolina, at Clemson, Virginia, Duke and Clemson - have come by an average margin of 10.5 points per game, including a seven-point loss to Pittsburgh, a two-point loss at North Carolina State, a four-point loss at Clemson and an eight-point loss at home to Clemson…Wednesday night’s game at Notre Dame is the first of three in a row away from McCamish Pavilion before concluding the regular season at home against Virginia Tech…The Yellow Jackets are 2-4 on the road in the ACC with road trips to Notre Dame, Florida State and Syracuse over the next week…In league play, Georgia Tech has lost two and won, lost two and won, lost two and won, lost two and won, and lost two, which means if they are to follow the pattern, they’ll defeat the Irish tonight.

Top players
G-Trae Golden (6-2, 205, Sr.) - Georgia Tech’s leading scorer (13.1 ppg.) has been slowed throughout most of February with a groin injury. Scored in double digits for the first time since Jan. 29 when he tossed in 17 points last Saturday against Clemson on 4-of-9 shooting from three-point range. That’s the fifth time this season Golden has connected on four three-pointers in a game. He leads the Yellow Jackets in three-pointers made (35), but is shooting just .411 from the field and .324 from beyond the arc.
C-Daniel Miller (6-11, 275, Sr.) - A key part of a physical front line, Miller averages 11.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game (fourth in the ACC). Has posted double-digit rebounds in eight games, including 13 (and 10 points) versus Notre Dame on Jan. 11. Shooting .602 from the field while pacing the Yellow Jackets in blocked shots (65), offensive rebounds (64) and steals (29).
F-Marcus Georges-Hunt (6-5, 219, Soph.) - Second-leading scorer (12.0 ppg.), but just a .412 shooter from the field, including a 1-of-13 performance on Feb. 4 vs. Clemson. Tossed in a season-high 23 points three days earlier against Wake Forest. Has scored in double figures in 19 of 27 games.

Inside the Irish
The Irish return home from a 1-2 road trip with a victory at Boston College (73-69), followed by setbacks to Miami (71-64) and Virginia (70-49). Tonight’s game is the first at Purcell Pavilion since Notre Dame’s 68-64 double-overtime victory over Clemson on Feb. 11…Mike Brey remains in search of his 300th victory with the Irish and 399th overall. Brey is 299-156 with the Irish and 398-208 in 19 seasons overall…Notre Dame’s first ACC road trip of the season came at McCamish Pavilion on Jan. 11 as the Yellow Jackets defeated the Irish, 74-69. Georgia Tech led by as many as 11 points in the first half and 15 in the second half. But the Irish took a two-point lead with under three minutes remaining and led by one with 1:14 on the clock. Georgia Tech scored seven of the final eight points to secure the victory. Eric Atkins scored a team-high 20 points against the Yellow Jackets. Garrick Sherman scored 13 points (on just 6-of-18 shooting) and grabbed 12 rebounds. Pat Connaughton scored 10 points (on 1-of-8 three-point shooting) with 10 rebounds. Austin Burgett scored a season-high 11 points with five rebounds.

Prister’s Take
It’s a battle of two teams sputtering to the finish line in a season they’d rather forget. The Irish have lost 10 of their last 14 while the Yellow Jackets are 3-8 since defeating Notre Dame at home the second weekend of January.

Just when the Irish were starting to feel better about themselves in Charlottesville Saturday, they allowed Virginia to turn a 43-43 deadlock with 11:25 remaining into a 25-point run and, ultimately, a 70-49 whitewashing. Notre Dame’s return to Purcell Pavilion should help put the Irish back in the right frame of mind.

And yet Notre Dame better bring their big-boy shoes against Georgia Tech because despite their 4-10 mark in conference play, the Yellow Jackets have size on the front line, including 6-foot-8, 247-pound sophomore Robert Carter, Jr. (9.2 ppg., 8.4 rpg.), who was sidelined with a knee injury when Notre Dame and Georgia Tech squared off in January. Carter, 6-foot-11, 275-pound Daniel Miller, 6-foot-5, 219-pound Marcus Georges-Hunt and 6-foot-8, 234-pound Kammeon Holsey will pound the backboards for the Yellow Jackets, although the Irish battled them to a rebounding stalemate (28-28) in Atlanta. 

It’s been said many times before of an opponent -- the Yellow Jackets are a poor outside shooting team - only to have the visitors come into Purcell Pavilion and light it up. Georgia Tech is 13th in the conference in shooting percentage from beyond the arc (.314), and Trae Golden - healthy again after a groin injury - is the only consistent threat, and even he’s a less than 33 percent shooter. Notre Dame needs to hold Georgia Tech true to its statistics and limit the long-range shooting. It’s a tricky proposition as the Irish try to keep the Yellow Jackets off the offensive glass and defend the arc.

Neither team has much for which to play, but the Irish protect the basketball much better than the Yellow Jackets, who rank 14th in the league in turnover margin. Notre Dame isn’t the kind of team that forces many turnovers. But if Georgia Tech hits the road ready to pack in another disappointing season, Notre Dame’s offensive efficiency - which was on the rise until the final 11 minutes at Virginia Saturday - should be enough to squeeze out a victory.

It’s been rare this year for Notre Dame to be such a sizeable favorite. The Irish find some solace in the final game of the month at home in an otherwise disappointing February.

Pointspread: Notre Dame by 6
Prister’s Prediction: Notre Dame 71, Georgia Tech 68
Prister’s record: 18-10 straight up; 8-17 vs. points

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