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Notre Dame Basketball: Georgia Tech Game Preview

ACC conference play finally tips off!

NCAA Basketball: Ball State at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

After yet another long break between games, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will hit the hardwood on Saturday afternoon to take on Georgia Tech in both teams’ ACC conference opener. The ACC is going to be very tough this season, as usual, so the Irish are fortunate to be starting with one of the worst teams in the league. But the beautiful thing about ACC basketball is that any team could rise to the occasion on any given night and make something crazy happen. In the last meeting between these two teams less than a year ago, for example, the Irish were barely able to pull off a 64-60 win over the Yellow Jackets.

Quick Facts:

  • #BreysChase: Head coach Mike Brey is just TWO wins away from passing Digger Phelps for the most wins by a Notre Dame men’s basketball coach.
  • This will be the 17th meeting between Notre Dame and Georgia Tech on the basketball court.
  • Georgia Tech leads the all-time series at 9-7, but Notre Dame is 5-3 against the Yellow Jackets since joining the ACC.
  • Georgia Tech is 0-4 in Purcell Pavilion in ACC competition.
  • The Irish are 16-1 in their first game after the Christmas break under Mike Brey, but this will be the first time that game is against an ACC foe.
  • Notre Dame is 3-1 in ACC openers since joining the league in 2013-14.

WHERE: Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center (9,149)

WHEN: Saturday, December 30, 2017, 2:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: National television broadcast on ESPNU with Mike Couzens and LaPhonso Ellis.

Notre Dame Basketball Radio Network with Jack Nolan and Jordan Cornette. Available on WatchND.tv, locally on WSBT-AM960/FM96.1, via network affiliates and on Sirius 138, XM 202 and Sirius/XM Internet 963.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-6)

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia Tech heads to South Bend still trying to figure out its identity. After starting the year 4-1, the Yellow Jackets have lost five of their last seven games and head coach Josh Pastner has tried five different starting lineups. They are averaging a sad-looking 67.2 points per game on 43.5 percent shooting and 32 percent from behind the arc.

Part of Tech’s struggles can be blamed on injuries, especially since their leading scorer, sophomore guard Josh Okogie, has only been able to play in four games. Since his return to the lineup on Dec. 17, Okogie has boosted the Yellow Jackets numbers to 73.8 points on 47.3 percent shooting. In his four games Okogie is averaging 18.5 points and five rebounds per game.

The Yellow Jackets are also led by senior guard Tadric Jackson’s 15.9 points per game, freshman guard Jose Alvarado’s 13.2 points and 3.4 assists per game, and senior center Ben Lammers’ 13 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

Georgia Tech has been a solid defensive team, however, holding their opponents to just 64.8 points per game. According to Kenpom.com, the Yellow Jackets are ranked 17th in the nation in lowest two-point field goal percentage yield. They also rank eighth in the nation on Kenpom with 24.4 percent of their total points scored from the free-throw line, and 24th in ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts.

All of that is to say that Tech lives or dies in the paint. In fact, Lammers leads the team in field goal attempts on the season. Which brings me to our next segment...

NCAA Basketball: NIT Semifinals-Georgia Tech vs Cal State Bakersfield Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Yellow Jacket to Watch:

Ben Lammers, C, Senior

Lammers is Georgia Tech’s trusty centerpiece, starting the last 49 consecutive games and averaging 32.7 minutes per game this year.

The 6-foot-10, 234 pound senior has recorded four double-doubles this season, and 20 total double-doubles since the beginning of last season. Trying to send him to the free throw line isn’t a good strategy either, as he shoots 82.1 percent from the charity stripe.

We all know that Notre Dame has struggled to rebound the ball this season, so shutting down Tech’s leading rebounder should be a priority.

Irish X-Factor:

Bonzie Colson, F, Senior

NCAA Basketball: Southeastern Louisiana at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

I mean, who else would it be?

Colson is fresh off being named the ACC Player of the Week and I think he knows he has to put this team on his back night-in and night-out. His numbers are up to 21.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, and he leads the Irish in blocks and steals.

Even though Tech defends the two-point field goal well, don’t expect the Irish to shy away from letting Colson go to work.

Prediction:

Notre Dame 74 - Georgia Tech 62

This game feels like it could be a little bit of a slugfest. Coming off another long layoff, it’s hard to tell how Notre Dame will respond. The Irish lost to Indiana after a seven-day break, and they lost to Michigan State after an eight-day break.

Now on a nine-day break, Notre Dame needs to break that trend. A lot will depend on how well they shoot the ball from three, because that’s what will allow them to pull away. Georgia Tech just can’t keep up with the Irish if they are heating up. Still I think this game will be a bit closer than it should be, but the Irish will get the win, and any ACC win is a good one.