SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Playing his fourth straight game with a chip fracture in his right pinkie finger, Notre Dame senior center Garrick Sherman went into Wednesday night’s game against Georgia Tech with a new brace protecting the injury.
“It definitely felt better,” Sherman said.
It showed, as Sherman scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Irish to a 65-62 victory over the Yellow Jackets at Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish, who improved to 15-14 overall and 6-10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, had to survive a late Georgia Tech flurry to secure the win.
After Yellow Jackets forward Robert Carter Jr. missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer from the right wing with 9 seconds left, teammate and guard Chris Bolden plucked the rebound before dishing it back to Carter, who launched another 3 before the buzzer sounded.
“When they got that rebound, I’m thinking, ‘We may deserve to get stuck here,'” Irish coach Mike Brey said, “but he missed that one too.”
The victory gave Brey, now in his 14th season at the school, his 300th victory at Notre Dame.
The secret to surviving so many seasons?
“Have more good ones than tough ones,” Brey said.
This season has been one of the tough ones, with the loss of leading scorer Jerian Grant to academics and a number of injuries, one of them being Sherman.
Sherman, who suffered the injury in Notre Dame’s Feb. 11 victory over Clemson, has played through it, although he has struggled. He scored a combined 23 points in the three full games since the injury before breaking through Wednesday, hitting 10 of 15 from the field. Sherman entered Wednesday’s game averaging 13.6 points per game.
“Sherman’s a high-quality player,” Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said, “and they got the ball inside.”
Early on it looked like the Yellow Jackets would have the inside track to an elusive ACC victory as they built a 22-11 lead with 7:42 left in the opening half.
“They did a good job of guarding us early,” said Notre Dame guard Eric Atkins, who added 17 points. “I think it just took us some time.”
After Brey called a 30-second timeout, most of the rest of the half went ND’s way as the Irish closed the half on a 22-9 run to lead 33-31 at the intermission.
“I thought the difference in the game was about a six-minute stretch near the end of the first half,” Gregory said.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, was asserting itself down low. The Irish outscored the Yellow Jackets in the paint 42-16 with Sherman doing a lot of the damage against man defense.
“It was nice to be able to go one-on-one,” Sherman said. “It was nice to break out of my mini-slump.”
Notre Dame looked like it had things under control after Atkins’ 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down gave the Irish a 63-56 lead with 2:19 to go.
Georgia Tech, however, got back-to-back 3-pointers from Carter to cut it to 63-62 with 1:09 remaining.
After Irish swingman Pat Connaughton missed a 3-pointer, Sherman hunted down the rebound, and the Yellow Jackets were forced to foul Connaughton, who hit both free throws with 24 seconds left.
Carter, who led the Yellow Jackets with 19 points, hit the front of the rim from the right wing before Bolden snatched the rebound and dished back to Carter. His 3 from close to the same spot, though, was off the mark, dropping the Yellow Jackets to 13-15 overall and 4-11 in the ACC. Guard Marcus Georges-Hunt chipped in 13 points for Georgia Tech.
Afterwards, Gregory talked about making winning plays.
“We made a couple,” Gregory said, “but not enough.”
NOTES: Mike Brey, getting his 300th victory at Notre Dame, has a career record of 399-208. Brey coached at Delaware prior to being hired at Notre Dame. … Georgia Tech made its first trip to Notre Dame since Feb. 24, 1990, when the Yellow Jackets pulled out an 88-80 overtime win. Georgia Tech went on to win the ACC title that season and advance to the Final Four … Notre Dame assistant coach Rod Balanis is a 1993 Georgia Tech graduate … Wednesday’s game began a stretch of three road
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