What looked like either a game-winning shot for Notre Dame or overtime did indeed become a game-winning opportunity -- for Georgia Tech.
Matt Farrell’s driving shot with 6.5 seconds missed, allowing the Yellow Jackets’ Tadric Jackson to get the rebound ahead to Josh Okogie, who beat T.J. Gibbs to the basket with 0.5 seconds remaining for a 62-60 Georgia Tech victory.
“We have had thrillers in this building since we’ve been in the ACC,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey. “You’ve got to give Tech a lot of credit. They made the last great play.”
The loss was the third in Notre Dame’s last four games as the Irish fell to 17-5 overall and 6-3 in ACC play. Georgia Tech’s victory lifted the Yellow Jackets to 13-8 overall and 5-4 in the conference, including victories over North Carolina, Florida State and now Notre Dame at home.
What normally is the Josh Okogie-Ben Lammers show became the Tadric Jackson-Ben Lammers show, although Okogie’s game-winner proved to be the deciding play.
Coming off the bench, Jackson scored 14 points in the first half and added another 11 in the second half to finish with a career-high 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field, including 3-of-6 from three-point range.
“Jackson was fabulous. We had no answers for him,” Brey said. “They posted him, they played him all over the place, and we couldn’t get a match-up on him. He was great today.”
Okogie scored 35 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in Wednesday’s 22-point home victory over Florida State, but picked up his second foul less than nine minutes into this game and managed just two points in the first half.
Jackson and Lammers were there to pick up the slack.
Lammers scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds – four on the offensive end in the first half – as the Yellow Jackets built an eight-point lead before the Irish closed to within four at the break. Lammers and Quinton Stephens each finished with three blocked shots.
“(Lammers) had three blocks? It felt like 10,” Brey said. “He changed another 10 (shots).”
Notre Dame trailed from one-to-five points throughout most of the second half. But a mid-range jumper in the lane by V.J. Beachem with 2:43 left tied it. Both teams had opportunities to score over the next two-and-a-half minutes but didn’t until the final tick on the clock.
With the score knotted at 60, Okogie missed two free throws with 35.8 seconds remaining. That gave the Irish an opportunity to win it or add another five minutes to the clock before Georgia Tech’s last second heroics.
“We probably didn’t get as good a shot at the end there, and we were trying to run it down even further,” Brey said. “But when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. Our defensive balance wasn’t very good, and they made a great play.
“They deserved it today. They played better longer.”
Beachem finished with 23 points after coming into the game with 990 career points. He became the 60th player in Notre Dame history to reach 1,000 points.
Farrell added 15 points on 5-of-14 from the field, but 3-of-5 from three-point range. He and Beachem each connected on a trio of three-pointers. Notre Dame shot 7-of-17 (41.2 percent) from beyond the arc.
Bonzie Colson scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Steve Vasturia was limited to five points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field.
“It was hard for us to get into an offensive rhythm because you couldn’t get anything around the basket,” Brey said. “The shot blocking of Lammers and Stephens really changes the game.
“We had to work like heck to get 60 points today.”
Neither team shot it well from the free-throw line with the Irish converting 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) while the Yellow Jackets missed half of their 12 attempts. Jackson scored all 25 of Georgia Tech’s bench points while the Irish tallied just two from its subs.
Austin Torres, who scored those two points off the Irish bench, once again breathed life into the Irish lineup. He finished with five rebounds in 21 minutes of action. Within the first five minutes of the second half, he took two charges and tied up Jackson on a blocked shot.
Notre Dame shot to a 19-9 lead out of the gate with Farrell, Beachem and Vasturia each hitting three-pointers and the Irish converting six of their first 10 shots.
But Notre Dame’s inability to keep Lammers and Stephens off the glass led to 10-2 and 11-0 runs that lifted Georgia Tech’s lead to eight (33-25).
Farrell’s three-pointer in the final two seconds of the first half brought the Irish to within four (35-31) at the break. Notre Dame made just five of its last 16 shots in the first half.
Georgia Tech out-scored the Irish 24-10 in the paint in the first half. The Yellow Jackets scored 14 second-chance points on eight offensive rebounds over the first 20 minutes.
Notre Dame returns home to take on Duke Monday night at Purcell Pavilion.