For all 40 minutes.
Twelve games later, the 6-foot-5, 226-pound freshman has become an integral part of one of the great turnaround stories in the country.
After scoring just 37 points in 17 games, and not playing in six of those games, Colson has averaged 7.0 points per the last 12 games and 13.3 over the last three with a team-leading 16 points in the victory at Boston College and again in the home loss to Syracuse.
“He’s amazing,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey of Colson. “He is such a gamer, man. I’m so proud of him, and he’s so disappointed when we (lose). He’s such a team-guy.
“I mentioned his attitude through the first 15 games when I didn’t even play him. He’s so pure in cheering his teammates on.”
Colson has been clutch for the Irish since his first meaningful contribution in conference play on Jan. 14 at Georgia Tech. With 6-foot-10 junior Zach Auguste back on campus tending to an academic issue, Colson came in for fellow freshman Martin Geben and logged a career-high 22 minutes.
His 10 points, four rebounds, 4-of-4 from the free-throw line, and four fouls contributed to a physical brand of play the Irish needed to pull out a 62-59 victory over the Yellow Jackets.
Auguste returned to the team the next game and resumed his lead role at the big-man position. But Colson has since formed a one-two punch – and even a one-two-three punch at times with red-shirt freshman Austin Torres joining in – that has served the Irish well in their march to the nation’s top 10 and the second/third spot in the ACC standings.
“I just try to play my role,” Colson said. “My job is to be physical and provide the team with what it needs when I’m in the game.”
Colson has logged double-digit minutes in 11 of the last 12 games. He’s converted 32-of-52 shots from the field (61.5 percent) – mostly taken within the paint – and has given the Irish a real boost around the bucket, where they can be rebound-challenged.
Colson has become a stat-sheet stuffer. In addition to his 40 rebounds in the last 12 games (3.3 average), he’s also added 12 blocked shots (a career-high three vs. Wake Forest last week) and eight steals (a career-high three vs. Syracuse Tuesday).
“He makes the tough plays,” said Irish captain Pat Connaughton, who knows more than most when it comes to tough, physical play. “He’s really going to help us in being that X-factor. That’s what we need from him on a nightly basis.”
Against Syracuse, with the Irish struggling offensively against the Orange 2-3 zone, Colson gave the Irish a boost – particularly in the second half – when he scored 13 of his 16 points in 12 minutes of action.
“The veteran guys are really confident in him now,” Brey said. “They want him in the game. These minutes keep creeping up for Bonzie Colson. What was it, 19 tonight? Maybe it will creep to 23 down in Louisville.”
Colson more than held his own against 6-foot-9, 245-pound Rakeem Christmas, who found himself in foul trouble against the Irish, due in large part to Colson’s physical approach.
“The mindset was to get him in foul trouble and to keep attacking him, and we did that,” said Colson of Christmas. “He fouled out and we tried taking advantage of that, but (Trevor) Cooney came through with some great shots and we couldn’t pull away from them.”
Brey experimented with having Colson and Auguste on the court at the same time, something the Irish will continue to look at as they approach post-season play with an eye on improving Notre Dame’s presence in the paint.
“We’re bigger that way,” Brey said. “We’re able to get some second shots. I thought it helped us in the second half playing bigger. We were better on the defensive boards and we got some second shots.
“We have to get reps (with both on the floor) moving forward, especially to get it ready for the post-season…Bonzie is just playing so darn well right now.”
Colson has his eye on the present and the future with the Irish.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” said Colson of Notre Dame’s double-bye in the ACC tournament following North Carolina’s loss Tuesday.
“We’ve got to take advantage of it. We’ve got to get back to work with a couple days off, and then we’ve got Louisville on the road, which will be a tough one. This one is behind us now. We’ve got to get ready for the next one.”
With Colson playing an integral role the rest of the way.