Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets guard Chris Bolden (11) moves to the basket past Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton (24) in the second half at Hank McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta. (Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports)
ATLANTA — With Robert Carter Jr. likely lost for the rest of the season, Georgia Tech desperately needs other players to step up.
Chris Bolden, mired in a horrendous shooting slump, did just that on Saturday.
The former Norcross and North Gwinnett standout, who scored a season-high 14 points, hit two crucial free throws with 9.2 seconds remaining and the Yellow Jackets hung on for a 74-69 ACC victory over Notre Dame at a loud McCamish Pavilion.
“I said before the game that I through Chris was ready to have a really good game,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said. “Of course, I’ve said that before, but I’m glad I was right today.”
Bolden, who moved into the starting lineup last season as a freshman, came into the game shooting just 24.7 percent and had seen his playing time shrink.
The 6-foot-2 guard hit his first 3-point attempt shortly after coming in off the bench for Tech (10-6, 1-2) against Notre Dame (10-6, 1-2) and finished 4 of 8 from behind the arc while playing a season-high 33 minutes.
“It’s been frustrating,” Bolden said of his shooting slump.
Gregory, though, liked what he saw with all the time Bolden was putting in on his shot and the extra effort paid off when Tech really needed a lift.
“It feels a lot better making a 3-pointer in a game and helping your team win than he does making one in practice,” Bolden said.
Tech, which had struggled without Carter in losing its first two ACC games at Maryland and Duke, led 17-4 five minutes into the game and 54-39 with six minutes gone in the second half.
It wouldn’t be easy, though, as Notre Dame battled back and led 68-67 after a basket by Garrick Sherman with 1:15 remaining.
Trae Golden’s 3-pointer with 45 seconds left put Tech back ahead and, after Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson made just one of his two free throws with 10.6 seconds on the clock, Bolden connected twice. Two more free throws by freshman Quinton Stephens with 3.5 seconds left clinched it.
Golden, who made 8 of 11 shots, scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half. Daniel Miller had a double-double for the Yellow Jackets with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Eric Atkins led Notre Dame with 20 points, while Sherman (13 points and 12 rebounds) and Pat Connaughton (10 of each) both had double-doubles.
In addition to Bolden, Kammeon Holsey also stepped up for Tech. The senior, who moved into the starting lineup with Carter’s injury, had 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting and also grabbed seven rebounds.
“With Robert out, we need everyone to play their best basketball and keep getting better,” Gregory said.
Carter had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee on Tuesday and the coach said it was “very doubtful” that the 6-foot-9 sophomore would be able to return before the end of the season.
“We’re not going to push it,” Gregory said. “He’s got a future in basketball, obviously, and we’re not going to do anything to compromise that whatsoever.”
The Shiloh graduate was averaging a near double-double, getting 10.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He hurt the knee in the second half of Tech’s 53-50 non-conference victory at Charlotte on Dec. 29, but at the time the injury wasn’t believed to be serious.
“I never thought anything of it,” Carter said. The knee was swollen two days later, though, and the tear was revealed with an MRI.
But now Tech has its first victory without Carter and gets two more ACC games at home before heading back on the road. The Yellow Jackets play Pitt on Tuesday night and Miami next Saturday.