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ND MENS BASKETBALL: Notre Dame grinds out season sweep of Georgia Tech in 58-55 win

Feb. 14—SOUTH BEND — Winning pretty isn't the usual route a young group takes on the path to adding to the win column.

Still, despite another game where shooting slumps reared its ugly head towards the Irish, Notre Dame (9-16, 4-10 ACC) refused to let one slip by, winning by any means necessary in a 58-55 victory over Georgia Tech (10-15, 3-11 ACC) at Purcell Pavilion Wednesday night.

ND's win pushed the Irish up to 13th in the conference, one game in front of cellar-mates Georgia Tech and Louisville. It's the second-straight win for Micah Shrewsberry's squad and the first time since February 26, 2022 that Notre Dame has won consecutive conference games.

A box score that looked quite ugly wasn't enough to keep a smile off the first-year head coaches face.

"This game and this team," Shrewsberry began. "I'm just proud of our guys. To shoot 31 percent from the field and still scratch out a win, that was our grittiness on display."

Winning by doing the small things was evident Wednesday. A night in which the Irish finished 18-of-57 from the floor and a frightening 5-of-26 from behind the arc, Notre Dame thrived on the offensive glass, pulling down 16 boards and adding 20 second-chance points in the process.

Kebba Njie's tap-out in the closing seconds was critical to the Irish's victory.

Up 56-55 with 38 seconds remaining, Notre Dame's Markus Burton was dared to up the lead. Pulling up from midrange on the right elbow, Burton's shot hit back iron. Kebba Njie went skyward, tapping the ball out to a hustling Logan Imes who corralled his third offensive rebound of the night. Needing to foul, Georgia Tech finally stopped the clock with one tick left.

"I just really wanted to win the game so whatever it took is a win for me," Njie said on his critical tap-out.

"That's just game-winning plays was what it was," Shrewsberry said. "The last possession and the shot goes up and [Njie] had played the whole second half and was battling and battling and battling and never gave up at any point in time and made that tip out which was big-time."

Burton sunk his pair at the line and watched as the Yellow Jackets desperation heave misfire, sealing a scratch and claw type victory for the Fighting Irish.

"I talked to our guys about it," Shrewsberry said. "Like we said before the game, we said do whatever it takes today. Whatever it takes for you individually to help us win. Kebba didn't get a field goal attempt tonight and some dudes will pout when that happens and he just kept playing and making big-time plays."

Burton, the reigning ACC Rookie of the Week, led the Irish with 18 points, five steals and five assists. Not to be outdone was Tae Davis (17 points, six rebounds) who used his reach and agility to score crucial buckets for the Irish down the stretch and continue flipping leads back in Notre Dame's favor.

On a night where the Irish showed poor shooting on open looks, they also showed something in which has not been as common this year: learning how to make adjustments in-game and executing them to close out wins.

"Coach got on me a little bit and so whenever coach gets on you, you have to respond and play the right way," Davis said after the game about his increased usage and energy in the second half.

"I thought a couple times he drove it passively," Shrewsberry said about Davis. "I thought the second half he really drove aggressively. He just adds another piece. His ability as a defender is special because he can guard anybody. When he's doing that and on the other end is attacking and scoring, that's huge for us."

Despite the poor shooting, Georgia Tech may have had a harder time sinking shots despite a 22-of-48 showing from the floor. The Yellow Jackets consistently hit release on several shots that only found air. The effect showed when open looks became timid takes in which the Irish defense (2nd in the ACC in scoring) closed out sharply.

Miles Kelly, who torched the Irish in the first meeting in Atlanta with 25 points and scored 36 in the Jackets most recent game, was held without a bucket at halftime. Finishing with 11, the main source of offensive life for the visitors was forced to dish the ball off due to a hounding Notre Dame defense.

Ibrahima Sacko and Baye Ndongo scored 13 and 11 points respectively for Georgia Tech who lost it's fourth straight contest. Extended periods without a basket reappeared throughout the night, allowing nine lead changes and six ties to characterize the night.

Notre Dame held a 31-28 lead at halftime until a 6-0 Georgia Tech run out of the locker room returned the lead to the visitors for the next nine minutes of play.

Davis recaptured the lead when he extended his arm on a drive down the paint, flipping up the ball through the net and taking a 47-46 lead for the homestanding Irish.

ND outrebounded Georgia Tech 40-31 and held a 16-5 advantage on the offensive glass. In second-chance points, the Irish held a 20-9 advantage.

"We needed them," Shrewsberry said about both advantages in the box score. "The amount of shots we missed we were bound to get some back, but you don't get them back without effort. Those were big plays and [we got] more cracks at it. I think Braeden [Shrewsberry] made one three and it was on a [Matt] Zona offensive rebound. Zona's offensive rebounds per minute is crazy right now."

"I feel like that's just who we have been all year is trying to crash the glass and get more possessions than the other team," Njie said. "We want to win the possession battle after the game."

Winners of two straight, Notre Dame has the chance to make it three when it travels to ACC bottom-dweller Louisville (8-17, 3-11 ACC) on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Georgia Tech — 28; 27; — 55

Notre Dame — 31; 27; — 58

Reach Matt Lucas at 574-533-2151, ext. 240325, or at matt.lucas@goshennews.com.