Notre Dame's Prentiss Hubb (right) recovers the ball during a steal attempt by Georgia Tech's Jose Alvarado (10) during the first half Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, in South Bend, Ind.
Photo: Robert Franklin/AP
Photo: Robert Franklin/AP

Georgia Tech loses fifth in a row, this time to Notre Dame

And there was, once again, a Georgia Tech defeat in which the Yellow Jackets’ play on offense reduced the chances for victory nearly to zero. Tech fell to its fifth consecutive defeat, 69-59 to Notre Dame Sunday night at Purcell Pavilion.

The Jackets have failed to reach 60 points in any of the five defeats.

“We’re just not able to put the ball in the basket right now,” coach Josh Pastner said.

  

Tech shot 22-for-54 from the field (40.7 percent) and turned the ball over 14 times in 61 possessions, numbers that will keep Tech last in the ACC in offensive efficiency and turnover percentage (KenPom). Even with excellent shooting from guard Michael Devoe and forward Kristian Sjolund (a combined 6-for-8 from 3-point range), the Jackets were 7-for-23 from beyond the arc (30.4 percent).

Guards Jose Alvarado and Curtis Haywood were again unable to extract themselves from their scoring slumps. Alvarado, who scored in double figures in 14 of his first 18 games, was held to seven points or fewer for the fifth consecutive game, limited to five points as he was 2-for-10 from the field and 1-for-6 from 3-point range. In Tech’s losing streak, he has taken 49 shots, is 3-for-20 from 3-point range and has scored 20 points.

“For us to have success, he’s going to have to score,” Pastner said.

Haywood, who was making 37.5 percent of his 3-point tries less than a month ago, was 0-for-6 from 3-point range, mostly on open shots. He scored one point. He is now an almost incomprehensible 1-for-29 in the past seven games.

“Great looks, just didn’t fall for us,” Pastner said.

Tech (11-13 overall, 3-8 ACC) held Notre Dame to 32.8 percent field-goal shooting as the Irish continued to flounder offensively in a season that’s gone sideways. But Notre Dame (13-11, 3-8) hammered the Jackets for 20 offensive rebounds and turned them into 20 second-chance points. The Irish were also better with the ball, turning it over eight times compared to Tech’s 14.

The Irish took 10 more shots (64-54) from the field. Because they were also extending possessions and often going up for putbacks, the Irish took 25 free throws to Tech’s 13 (the Jackets also fouled 3-point shooters three separate times).

The Irish also had 20 offensive rebounds in the teams’ first meeting, a 63-61 Tech win at McCamish Pavilion on January 22, which was the Jackets’ last win.

Notre Dame obtained nine of them – nearly half – in the final 9:29, when Tech center James Banks was playing with four fouls and had to dial back his aggressiveness and also when Pastner took forward Abdoulaye Gueye for stretches to run with one post player instead of two to try to help unclog the offense.

“It’s a little bit tougher, especially when we go smaller and they’ve got some athletic guys in there, guys that make plays, and they did that,” Banks said.

Tech led 17-8 early, with Devoe pumping in three 3-pointers, and had a chance to give a demoralizing shot to a Notre Dame team that had lost six of its previous seven. But then the Jackets went dry for the next five possessions, enabling the Irish to pull to within 17-15.

The Jackets went into the half up 25-24. However, a 9-0 run early in the second half lifted Notre Dame into a 33-28 lead, and the Irish never trailed after that.

The Jackets were down 45-42 with the ball with about 8:15 to play when Alvarado dug out an offensive rebound after guard Brandon Alston missed from 3. The ball found Sjolund in the corner.

Pastner had given the freshman forward an extended look in hopes he could provide some offense, and Sjolund delivered, scoring on a 3-pointer and then a reverse in his first two trips down the floor. On this instance, Sjolund drove from the corner, attacked the basket, went for a lay-in and missed.

Alston fouled Notre Dame guard T.J. Gibbs taking a 3-pointer at the other end, Sjolund missed from 3 and then guard T.J. Hubb attacked the basket, scoring on a high floater over Banks for a 49-42 lead that went a long way to securing the win for the Irish.

Without four fouls, “I probably would have stepped up a little bit more, but I wanted to remain vertical,” Banks said. “He put it up there for me to go get it. I tried to get it, I couldn’t get it, it went in the basket.”

Sjolund’s miss on the lay-in try would have cut the lead to 45-44 and perhaps changed the flow of the game.

“That’s kind of how this season’s been with us,” Pastner said. “There’s been a lid on the hoop for us.”

Sjolund did score eight points on five shots (he was 2-for-3 from 3-point range) and earned himself more playing time, Pastner said. However, Sjolund, Khalid Moore and Alston – players Pastner looked to for scoring punch with Alvarado and Haywood slumping – weren’t much help in keeping Notre Dame off the offensive glass, with one rebound in a combined 42 minutes of play.

“We just have to focus on boxing out,” Sjolund said. “That’s what we have to keep working on, and getting stronger at that.”

Devoe played perhaps his finest game of the season, attaining career highs in points (18) and rebounds (eight) and tying his career high for assists (six, against just two turnovers). Gueye scored in double figures (12, on 4-for-7 shooting) for the seventh time in the past eight games.

After losing to No. 2 Duke, No. 8 North Carolina and No. 22 Florida State, the Jackets had more winnable games this past week (home vs. Clemson and Sunday’s game at Notre Dame). An inability to score consistently gave those opportunities away.

“Tough, tough one,” Banks said of Sunday’s loss. “It was one that, in our hands, we really could have got. It’s one that we needed to get back on our feet before we go on another tough stretch here.”

Tech will go to No. 11 Virginia Tech on Wednesday and then the Seminoles will come to McCamish next Saturday.

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