ATLANTA - With a vibrant crowd and a conference foe in town for the first time this season, Georgia Tech got a much-needed victory. Trae Golden scored 20 points to lead four in double figures as the Yellow Jackets hung on to defeat Notre Dame 74-69 Saturday at McCamish Pavilion.
Garrick Sherman had a reverse lay up to put Notre Dame (10-6, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) up 68-67 with 1:15 remaining in the game. Golden followed with a 3-pointer to give Georgia Tech (10-6, 1-2) the lead for good.
The Fighting Irish, in their first season in the ACC, were down just three points when Eric Atkins hoisted a running 3-pointer with five seconds still on the clock. The attempt rimmed out and Tech guards Chris Bolden and Quinton Stephens each hit a pair of free throws to close out the win.
“He said he thought they were trying to foul and so he was trying to go into his (shooting) motion,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said of the play by Atkins. “I understand why he was reacting (but) that’s probably a little bit of out thinking yourself. We talked about that.”
The visitors from South Bend, Indiana took the lead for the first time with 3:55 to play in the game on a jumper by Pat Connaughton. The game was tied twice after that, the last of which on Kammeon Holsey’s put back at the 2:15 mark.
Sherman followed with the final two of his 13 points, all of which came in the second half. With the shot clock winding down, Golden drained a three to give the hosts a 70-68 lead with 42 seconds to play.
“(Golden) made a big shot, and you know, he’s the guy whose made big shots for them,” Brey said.
Sherman missed all eight of his shots in the opening half, but started to come alive midway through the second. The senior center had nine points, including three consecutive baskets on the tail end of Notre Dame’s 13-0 run that sliced Tech’s cushion to 54-52.
Atkins’ three-point play pulled the Fighting Irish even for the first time at 57-57 with just under seven minutes remaining. After Bolden and Stephens hit shots, Tech led by five, but Notre Dame scored the next seven points and went up for the first time at 64-62.
“To lose the lead and come back and win it is great,” said Tech coach Brian Gregory, whose team was playing at home for the first time since December 16. “For me, in terms of what we’re trying to do and build, just an unbelievable afternoon. Our guys played with great intensity and energy, great crowd, students were tremendous. We haven’t been here in over a month, that’s a long time (and) we don’t win this game today without us playing at home and the crowd that we had.”
Notre Dame made just 36 percent of its field goal attempts in the first half and the struggles continued during the early stages of the second half.
The Fighting Irish went without a field goal for more than six minutes, which allowed Tech to build a 15-point cushion.
Marcus Georges-Hunt had four points and had two of his six assists, while Golden capped a 15-4 spurt to start the half with a runner in the lane to give the Yellow Jackets a 54-39 advantage with 14 minutes to play in the game.
The Yellow Jackets were 8-of-13 from the field over the first seven minutes of the game, led by Golden, who hit three early shots to help the hosts build their largest lead of the first half at 17-4.
Notre Dame missed nine of its first 10 shots, but started to climb back in the game, thanks to Atkins. The senior guard hit a jumper and added a 3-pointer, part of a 12-point first half, that made it a 17-9 game at the 13:32 mark.
It was a game of quick spurts over the last nine minutes of the first half.
The Fighting Irish scored eight consecutive points over a minute and a half span, getting to within 25-23 on a steal by Atkins and a lay up from Demetrius Jackson with eight minutes to play until halftime.
Tech answered right back with an 8-0 run. Golden had an excellent opening half with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting and the guard made consecutive baskets, while Holsey’s tough basket underneath pushed the hosts’ lead to 33-23.
Atkins and Pat Connaughton each hit a 3-pointer in Notre Dame’s 12-4 run that got it to 37-35 before Golden knocked down two free throws to send Tech into the halftime locker room up 39-35.
Bolden had 14 points, including 4-of-8 3-pointers, while Holsey added 13 and Daniel Miller 10 with 13 rebounds for Tech. Atkins led Notre Dame with 20 points.