Posted: 5:09 pm Monday, January 13th, 2014
By Ken Sugiura
A little late coming, but bursting with insight as always. My game story here.
1. Corey Heyward showed a little spark. The redshirt freshman gave 12 minutes off the bench. He didn’t score, but had four rebounds and two assists with no turnovers. He defended Eric Atkins, Notre Dame’s point guard, effectively. Being a freshman and also coming off two ACL surgeries, it’s hard to expect him to give this sort of performance on a game-in, game-out basis, but the more he can do it, the more rest it can give Trae Golden.
You may have noticed that Solomon Poole was not on the bench. As I wrote in the game story, he was out with a migraine headache. It hit him a few days before the game and he was hoping to watch the game from the bench, but it was evidently severe enough that he could not make it. He was expected to see a doctor Saturday. Talking Brian Gregory Monday, it isn’t clear whether he’ll play Tuesday against Pitt.
Stacey Poole was available but did not play. He played 12 minutes against Maryland and five against Duke. There were five ACC games that he did not play in, including one that he missed for personal reasons.
I suspect this will continue. He has given Tech an energy boost at various times this season, and will likely get minutes according to matchups and situations, but I think Gregory increasingly likes Quinton Stephens coming off the bench.
2. Tech again showed its habit of turning it on and off. It worked out better than against Vanderbilt and St. John’s, when Tech had a double-digit lead in the first half before losing by wide margins. Saturday, Tech had a 17-4 lead that was reduced to two points before the end of the first half and a 54-39 lead with 13:59 to go that vanished after the Jackets failed to score over the next five minutes and 26 seconds.
Notre Dame took the lead three different times before Tech closed the game on a 7-1 run.
This hardly makes Tech unique. Duke led Notre Dame by 10 with 11:35 to go before losing two weekends ago. Gregory acknowledged again that Tech sometimes struggles maintaining its peak. There is a fine line, he said, between aggressive and overaggressive.
“We want to keep making great plays, great plays, great plays,” Gregory said. “To build a rally, you need to keep hitting singles, keep hitting singles. Sometimes, we go for the gusto a little more so than maybe we need. Or if we they score two baskets, that next one, we need a really good possession.”
That said, though, the fact that Tech took such a commanding lead is indicative of its potential. Notre Dame had trailed by 15 only once before this season, to Indiana State in a November loss.
3. How big a win is this? Hard to say. Notre Dame isn’t as strong as it has been, it would appear. The Irish have made the NCAA tournament six of the past seven seasons, but were No. 90 in RPI on Monday. (Tech is No. 120.) It’s not gigantic, like beating Miami was last year, but it’s something. Maybe it’s best described as a tough win but the kind that Tech needs to have, and maybe should have, at home.
This is shaping up to be a pretty interesting season in the ACC. On the same day that Tech won, North Carolina and Duke both lost. In fact, North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State all lost on the same day for the first time since 1996, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. It maybe goes without saying, but it would appear neither the Tar Heels nor the Blue Devils are as strong as they typically are. Syracuse appears entirely legit.
Given that North Carolina has already lost to Wake Forest and Miami (which was picked 12th in the preseason poll), and that the same Clemson team (picked 14th) that beat Duke Saturday had lost to Florida State two days earlier by 15 points, it would appear that not much can be assumed this season.