Two factors have diminished fifth-year senior center Garrick Sherman’s production in recent weeks. Neither seemed to affect him in a 65-62 win over Georgia Tech on Wednesday.
Fifth-year senior center Garrick Sherman reached double-digit points for the first time in five games, tallying 21 points to lead the Irish past Georgia Tech.
Sherman, who has played with a brace on his right pinkie finger since injuring it Feb. 11 against Clemson, scored 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting and grabbed five rebounds to help the Irish (15-14, 6-10 ACC) avenge a January loss to the Yellow Jackets (13-15, 4-11). Double teams and the injury had held Sherman beneath the double-digit mark in four straight games, but not Wednesday. He did not face a consistent double team and said he has developed a better feel for playing through the injury.
“It was good to break out of my mini-slump, a few-games where I was trying to figure out the finger issue and getting double-teamed each game,” Sherman said. “It was nice to break through tonight.
“There wasn’t a double, which was nice actually. I had some space. When they did, I was ready for it. It helped me get in a rhythm and feel a little better out there. It was nice to go one-on-one.”
Sherman and the rest of the Irish outscored Georgia Tech 42-16 in the paint while the Yellow Jackets thrived from behind the three-point line (10 of 20) while finishing with a 37.3 shooting percentage.
“[Senior center] Daniel Miller is as good a post defender in the country as there is at some times and we didn’t give him much help,” Tech head coach Brian Gregory said.
The Irish trailed by as many as 11 in the first half, but Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey found the right lineup — Sherman, fifth-year senior forward Tom Knight, junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton, freshman guard Steve Vasturia and senior guard Eric Atkins — to rally for a two-point halftime lead. The five-man group played more than 11 consecutive minutes during the two halves to push Notre Dame’s lead to nine with 13:53 to play.
“That was a great win for us,” said Brey, who earned his 300th victory at Notre Dame. “Our seniors, I think they set the tone. … I thought we really defended well most of the game. … I thought we executed offensively — we executed stuff, we got Sherm touches, we were pretty good with game pressure on us down the stretch, so it’s good to win.”
Brey had placed sophomore forward Austin Burgett into the starting lineup for fellow sophomore forward Zach Auguste, but Knight’s play ended up complementing Sherman’s the best Wednesday. He finished with six points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes.
Senior guard Eric Atkins scored 17 points and did not commit a turnover in 39 minutes.
Connaughton finished at the hoop as the shot clock expired to give Notre Dame a 63-56 lead with 2:07 left. Tech forward Robert Carter Jr. sunk a pair of three-pointers in a row to trim the deficit to one, but the Yellow Jackets would not score again. Connaughton finished with nine points and eight rebounds in 39 minutes and did not commit one turnover.
“He made that big drive at a key time and got some key defensive rebounds,” Brey said. “He was a rock. You can’t take him out [of the game].”
The Irish welcome former Big East foe Pittsburgh to Purcell Pavilion on Saturday for senior day, in what Brey called a fitting final home matchup.
“It means a lot,” Brey said when reflecting on his 300th win at the Irish helm, “to be able to be at a place as long as I’ve been and have the support that I’ve had, coaching the kinds of kids that I get here, a fan base that’s been amazingly supportive.
“Here I am. I’ve got a job that I feel I’m an unbelievable fit for. I hope I do a good enough job that I can retire here. And that’s never changed.”