Georgia Tech has a rematch with Notre Dame, just 10 days after the teams met in the ACC opener. But the Irish squad that will show up at McCamish on Wednesday isn’t the same one that that won the initial meeting in South Bend.
Notre Dame will be without a pair of key starters for the rematch, missing seniors Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell. The duo combined for 32 points and 22 rebounds when the Irish prevailed 68-59 on Dec. 10.
“Notre Dame is playing at a high level, even without some of their best guys,” Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner said.
Georgia Tech (8-7, 1-1 ACC) will host Notre Dame (13-3, 3-0) at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
“They’re in first place in the ACC,” Pastner said. “They’re still really, really good. You don’t win at Syracuse without being really, really. This is going to be a great challenge. We have to play really well.”
Georgia Tech hopes to build on the momentum it has gained from winning the last two games. The Yellow Jackets have won back-to-back games against Miami and Yale. Pastner sees how continued improvement in some key areas could make a difference in the rematch with the Irish.
The first time around the Yellow Jackets had nine offensive rebounds, but couldn’t convert any of them into second-chance points. Even more indicting was the lack of success at the line; Georgia Tech was a miserable 7-for-18 on free throws.
“We’ve been better at finishing the last two games,” Pastner said. “Guys have to take their time, don’t rush stuff and concentrate. You’ve got finish. You can’t miss those.”
Continuity has helped. The Yellow Jackets are finally getting healthy and Pastner has started the same lineup for each of the last three games, with Abdoulaye Gueye playing the power forward slot. Guard Curtis Haywood returned to the lineup after missing six games with a shin injury and was able to play nine minutes without any adverse reaction.
Even more important has been the addition of guard Josh Okogie, who has played seven games since his return from injury. Okogie has averaged 20 points and scored in double figures in each game since coming back.
“You can see within the practices that we’re getting better as a team,” Pastner said. “It’s been like preseason practice for us. We’ve been able to practice (with the entire roster) and get back into rhythm and hopefully we can keep it on the right path.”
The path could be a lot easier without Colson, named preseason ACC Player of the Year, and Farrell, a great shooter and on-court leader. Is out for up to eight weeks after foot surgery and Farrell will miss his second straight game with a badly sprained ankle.