Notre Dame's tournament dreams were dealt a death blow today as the Irish collapsed down the stretch in Atlanta, losing to the ACC bottom-feeding Yellow Jackets.
The Irish had numerous opportunities down the stretch, but a missed Eric Atkins free throw with about 10 seconds left all but ended Notre Dame's chance to escape with a victory.
To their credit, Notre Dame battled back from down 15 to tie the game at 57. They even took their first lead of the game at 64-62. But yet again, they couldn't finish strong, as a Chris Bolden three at the end of a terrible Yellow Jacket possession gave Georgia Tech a two-point lead that broke the Irish, both for today's game and likely the 2013-2014 season.
Atkins led with 20 points, despite the crucial missed free throw and an odd desperation three in which he had plenty of time to set his feet to tie the game. Two Irish players had double-doubles despite struggling, as Pat Connaughton had 10 points and 10 rebounds while Garrick Sherman had 13 and 12. The freshmen trio yet again failed to make enough of an impact, combining for 9 points on 5-12 shooting.
Georgia Tech saw good efforts today from Trae Golden (20 pts, 8-11 FG) and Daniel Miller (10 pts, 13 rebs, 4 blocks). Bolden's dagger three was part of a 14 point effort off the bench.
I'm not sure what else to say, other than this team really needs Jerian Grant. They have no consistency offensively without him, despite Atkins' efforts to step up into that scorer role. I know many felt that this team could be better without Grant's often aloof or otherwise inconsistent play, but that notion is just downright laughable after back-to-back unforgivable losses.
The loss of Grant turned the likelihood of a tournament berth from probable to a miracle. Sitting at 10-6, the Irish are going to need a 2012-esque winning streak of 8 or 9 games, and with looming opponents like Florida State, Virginia, Syracuse, and North Carolina, that appears to be a pipe dream.
Notre Dame will try to even up their conference record at Maryland on Wednesday, January 15th at 7pm est. That game will be featured on ESPN2.