ATLANTA — Back at full strength, Georgia Tech is starting to find its groove.

Without two of its best players, Notre Dame is trying to hold on.

Josh Okogie scored 17 points and Georgia Tech snapped Notre Dame’s five-game winning streak, beating the depleted Fighting Irish 60-53 Wednesday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Irish were again missing two of their top players, preseason All-America selection Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell .

“You can’t replace a Bonzie Colson and a Matt Farrell, especially what they do for this team,” Notre Dame forward John Mooney said. “It’s tough to lose them. But we’ve got guys who are stepping up.”

Colson had surgery last week for a broken left foot and is expected to be out for at least eight weeks. Farrell, a senior point guard who is averaging 15.9 points a game, missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle.

Georgia Tech took advantage of their absence, handing Notre Dame just its second loss in the last eight games.

The teams were playing for the second time in 12 days. When Notre Dame won 68-59 on Dec. 30 , Colson had 22 points and Farrell added 10.

“They’re great players,” Georgia Tech center Ben Lammers said. “Even when you play great defense, they can still make plays. That can be disheartening at times.”

The Yellow Jackets (9-7, 2-1) pushed out to a 10-point halftime lead and held off Notre Dame (13-4, 3-1) for their second straight conference victory.

Okogie darted into the lane and banked in a jumper with 2:05 remaining to give the Yellow Jackets a 58-53 lead. He tacked on two free throws with 18.1 seconds left to clinch the victory.

Notre Dame’s final points came on Mooney’s dunk with 3:20 remaining. The Irish missed their final five shots, mirroring their struggles at the end of the first half.

With Okogie missing the first eight games because of an NCAA suspension and a finger injury, Georgia Tech got off to a miserable start that included losses to Grambling State , Wofford and Wright State .

“Unfortunately you can’t petition the NCAA not to count the games pre-Christmas,” coach Josh Pastner said. “You can see from the product on the floor that the team is getting better.”

Notre Dame led 18-17 after Martinas Geben’s dunk with nearly nine minutes remaining in the opening period but managed only two free throws the rest of the half.

The Irish clanked their last 11 shots from the field, also missed four free throws and turned it over three times, allowing Georgia Tech to put together a 13-2 run and a 10-point edge at the half.

Notre Dame’s only lead of the second half, 38-37, came on Geben’s layup with 11:59 to go. Lammers responded with a tip-in and Okogie’s 3-pointer put Georgia Tech ahead to stay.

Geben led Notre Dame with 16 points, while Mooney and T.J. Gibbs had 11 apiece. The Irish made just under 36 percent from the field (21 of 59), including 4 of 18 from 3-point range.

Tadric Jackson added 11 points for Georgia Tech. Lammers chipped in with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have shown plenty of grit without Colson and Farrell but couldn’t pull off another win. They were on cusp of cracking The Associated Press Top 25, missing out by only one spot in the latest poll, but this loss might keep them out for another week.

Georgia Tech: After such a discouraging start to the season, the Yellow Jackets appear to be recapturing the form they showed last year on the way to the NIT title game. They’ve been able to at least protect the home court, improving to 9-2 in ACC games under Pastner at McCamish Pavilion, but it will take a few road wins to make them a legitimate contender.

STAT SHEET

Jackson matched his career high with nine rebounds. … Notre Dame, which was connecting on 39 percent of its 3-pointers, went 0 of 9 beyond the arc in the first half. … Georgia Tech finished with a 39-33 advantage on the boards. … Lammers turned in his sixth double-double of the season and 22nd of his career.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: Return to South Bend for the first of two straight ACC home games, hosting No. 20 North Carolina (13-4). “It’s always exciting to play North Carolina, especially at home,” Mooney said. “It should be a good atmosphere with the students coming back” from the holiday break.

Georgia Tech: After wrapping up a three-game homestand, the Yellow Jackets hit the road for an ACC game against struggling Pittsburgh, which dropped to 8-9 on the season with a 87-52 loss to No. 7 Duke.


Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry


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