Sherman connected on 10 of 15 shots in 33 minutes of action. He had totaled just 29 points in the previous four games since chipping a finger on his (right) pinky finger in an overtime win over Clemson 15 days prior.
"I finally learned to play with my finger a little bit better, playing through the injury," said Sherman. "I felt a little bit better today and kind of got in a rhythm early. When they started to double team I handled it reasonably well and had a good game."
Doubled often throughout ACC play since league heavyweight Virginia provided that defensive blueprint in late January, Sherman enjoyed ample one-on-one action inside Wednesday largely because Yellow Jackets head coach Brian Gregory liked the matchup between his big man, Daniel Miller, and Notre Dame's talented post scorer.
"Give Sherman credit, Daniel Miller is as good a post defender as there is 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," said Gregory. "Anytime you give a post man three or four dribbles in the post he's going to be hard to guard. Especially someone as good as him, as big as him, and as experienced against who he's played against over his five years."
Connaughton hit clinching free throws late
Notre Dame trailed 22-11 early but rallied with ten buckets and 22 points in the final 6:55 of the first half. Assisting on five of the baskets was junior Pat Connaughton who struggled from the floor but stuffed the stat sheet, tying for a team-best eight rebounds while leading the Irish with six assists.
Though Connaughton missed seven of eight three-point shots he connected on a crucial buzzer-beating drive to quell a nine-point Yellow Jackets run midway through the second stanza and hit a pair of free throws with 23 seconds remaining to extend the Irish lead to 65-62.
"He made that big drive at a key time, got some big defensive rebounds," said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey of his do-everything junior swingman. "We got him to the foul line, we want him to be fouled. He was a rock, you can't take him out."
Tenuous timeNotre Dame survived a pair of three-point shots in the final seconds, the latter a good look for Yellow Jackets leading scorer Robert Carter, Jr.
"We finished the half with good momentum and then we started the half with good energy and good momentum," said Brey of a 13-minute span in which Notre Dame outscored their visitors 36-16.
"They hit some bombs to make it interesting. No. 11 (Chris Bolden) hit two and then Carter hit a couple. He had a couple lined up there at the end where, when we didn't rebound the first one and he got another, I'm thinking we may deserve to get stuck here."
Senior Eric Atkins aided the Irish cause with 17 points and four assists, playing 39 minutes without a turnover. Carter led the visiting Yellow Jackets with 19 points and 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes. Marcus Georges-Hunt added 13, hitting as many free throws (6 for 7) as did the Irish roster (6 for 8).
Notre Dame owned a 42-16 scoring advantage in the paint but couldn't shake free due to a woeful 5 of 20 shooting effort (and odd reliance) from long range. Tech hit 10 of 20 from beyond the arc but hit just 12 of 39 shots inside the three-point line.
Milestone MomentWednesday's win marked Brey's 300th as Notre Dame head coach.
"It means a lot, to be able to be at a place as long as I've been and have the support that I've had, coaching the kind of kids that I get here, a fan base that's been amazingly supportive," said Brey of his milestone. "Of course, we've been pretty darn good too. It means a lot."
Brey noted the current squad's struggles haven't resulted in a changed end goal.
"We still hope and dream as we finish the season this year," he said.
Notre Dame is unlikely to land anywhere near an NCAA Tournament bid next month, but Brey's Irish squads have earned nine appearances in his 14 seasons at the helm and the veteran leader ranks 25th among the nation's longest-tenured coaches. He's the sixth longest-tenured head coach among teams in the six power conferences (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12, and SEC).
"I've got a job I feel I'm an unbelievable fit for," said Brey. "I hope I do a good enough job that I can retire here. And that's never changed. It's really never changed. To have your name on a program -- it takes a lot to get it to that, it's your program.
"I'm really proud of that and proud out what we've done."
Notre Dame hosts former Big East rival and fellow ACC rookie Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon at the Purcell Pavilion -- Senior Day for a trio of scholarship Irish.
"We've had some unbelievable battles with this program," said Brey of the Panthers. "We've had pretty good success against them lately. It will be very fitting for Eric and Sherm and Tom (Knight) to finish it up. It will be a Big East memory when you see their jerseys out on our floor."