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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Terror from Terry: Notre Dame falls at buzzer in Atlanta

The 2022-23 edition of Fighting Irish men’s basketball has yielded a sizable list of torturous moments to this point. Between one-point losses to Syracuse and Florida State, blown leads on the road and everything else that comes with being a conference basement-dweller, it’s been a rough ride. Those who have stuck with the team received another gut punch Wednesday night in Atlanta. Georgia Tech — having entered the game on a nine-game losing skid — defeated the Irish 70-68 on a buzzer-beating tip-in. Notre Dame now holds a 10-14 overall record and a 2-11 mark in ACC play.

The night opened with a welcome sign for the Irish. Though freshman guard JJ Starling would be limited with the stomach flu, freshman forward Ven-Allen Lubin was back in the starting lineup after missing two games. The Orlando native showed no signs of rust, opening the scoring 35 seconds in with a layup. 

Both teams struggled in the early minutes, as a combined 0-for-5 start from distance yielded an 8-7 Irish lead after six minutes. With the help of Notre Dame turnovers and hot shooting from senior guard Lance Terry, Georgia Tech nosed out in front. Lubin grabbed four more quick points on the inside, setting up a 19-17 Yellow Jacket lead in the half’s final eight minutes.

After GT junior guard Deivon Smith posted five points in 39 seconds, Notre Dame found its strongest offensive stretch yet. Graduate guard Cormac Ryan capped off the 7-0 run by nailing a three, but the Yellow Jackets were not fazed. Terry followed up a triple from senior guard Kyle Sturdivant with one of his own, and GT was back on top, 30-27. 

Georgia Tech set off on a 6-0 run with two minutes to go, but the Irish marched right back. Graduate guards Marcus Hammond and Nate Laszewski connected on consecutive threes, bringing the deficit back to one. Then, in the waning seconds after GT went ahead by three, Laszewski delivered a cruel harbinger of a bucket. Following up an errant Hammond three, he hauled down the offensive rebound and scored the putback as the buzzer sounded. With that, Notre Dame trailed Georgia Tech, 38-37 at halftime.

To open the second half, two minutes and 11 seconds passed by without a point. Lubin finally broke the ice and reached double-figures, setting up a 45-43 Irish lead at the under-16 media timeout. A precipitous five minutes followed for Notre Dame, as Lubin waded into foul trouble and Georgia Tech regained the advantage at 54-50. Lance Terry continued to pester the Irish, uniting with senior forward Ja’von Franklin for an 11-4 run and reaching 15 total points by the midway point of the second half. 

With their backs against the wall, Notre Dame’s shooters again found life. After Hammond and Ryan evened the score with layups, Laszewski nailed a three to take the lead. Graduate guard Dane Goodwin followed with another just 28 seconds later, sending the Irish ahead 60-54 after a 10-0 run. Both offenses rolled after the under-eight media timeout, but Mike Brey’s team maintained a 64-62 lead.

At that point, the first of three disastrous moments struck the Irish. With 3:32 on the clock, scoreless graduate guard Trey Wertz fouled sophomore guard Dallan Coleman as he attempted a three, allowing the Yellow Jackets to go ahead again. 34 seconds later, Franklin scored all three on an and-one opportunity, expanding the lead to 68-64. A Laszewski follow-up and successful Ryan free throw trip evened the score again, setting up a wild finish with 1:55 to go.

Rather than trading buckets, the Irish and Yellow Jackets exchanged misses down the stretch. Terry had a golden opportunity to force GT ahead with 1:07 to play, but he missed an open dunk to continue the ill-timed segment of offensive futility. Eventually, Notre Dame called a timeout with 41 seconds left, but Laszewski caught only iron on a go-ahead jumper in the final 30 ticks. The Irish used their two fouls to give, setting up Georgia Tech for a front-court inbound with five seconds to play. 

The basketball found Kyle Sturdivant for the crucial shot, but he couldn’t hit his fadeaway from the baseline. Notre Dame had already missed four consecutive shots, and Georgia Tech’s fourth consecutive failure should have sent the game to overtime, but Lance Terry had other plans. With Laszewski drawn out of the paint to help defend the shooter and Lubin stuck on the wrong side of the basket, the Georgia native skied for the offensive rebound. He got to the ball, tipped it off glass and watched in elation as the shot fell through at the buzzer. McCamish Pavilion exploded, as Georgia Tech’s nine-game losing streak was over — and Notre Dame was left in agony again.

All five Irish starters finished the night in double-figures. Laszewski paced the pack with 16, Goodwin contributed 14, Lubin and Ryan each scored 13 and Hammond offered 10. Lubin was especially strong in his return, shooting 6-7 from the field and grabbing seven rebounds. Goodwin also thrived on the boards, combining seven rebounds with four assists. However, as has been the story all season, Notre Dame’s leaders went cold late with no bench options to help. The Irish shot 32.1 percent from the field after halftime and made only three triples in that timeframe. Meanwhile, Starling was limited and Wertz was a non-factor in terms of scoring production.

Georgia Tech’s hero, Lance Terry, collected 19 points in the Yellow Jacket win. Behind him, Ja’von Franklin barely missed a double-double, tallying 16 points and 9 rebounds. Kyle Sturdivant also scored 12, while Dallan Coleman added 11. Like Notre Dame’s, the Yellow Jacket bench was nearly silent, scoring a mere eight points. However, Georgia Tech remained much more consistent in the final 20 minutes, posting a 42.9 post-halftime field goal percentage.

Up next, Notre Dame will take a much-needed trip home before visiting Duke and Virginia. The Hokies of Virginia Tech (15-10, 4-9) will visit Purcell Pavilion Saturday afternoon. While the Irish endured their stunner in Atlanta, VT fell 82-76 to Boston College as double-digit favorites. Redshirt senior forward Grant Basile exploded for a season-high 33 points in the loss. Even with Wednesday’s debacle, the Hokies have still won three of their last five to bounce back from a seven-game losing slide. Saturday’s game will tip-off at 2 p.m. ET and will be available on Regional Sports Networks and the Notre Dame Radio Network.