NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Mike Brey started the search for a fresh Notre Dame basketball identity by sorting through his options.
Brey started the expected five Friday night in a 87-56 exhibition win over St. Francis, an NAIA program from Joliet, Ill. — Demetrius Jackson, Steve Vasturia, V.J. Beachem, Bonzie Colson and Zach Auguste. He then started mixing and matching.
Martinas Geben came off the bench first after Auguste picked up a second foul. Then came Matt Farrell, Austin Burgett and Austin Torres in various combinations.
Freshmen Matt Ryan, Rex Pflueger and Elijah Burns all made appearances in the first half as well. Each scored the first buckets of their careers too. Burns on a lob from Jackson, while Pfueger and Ryan each knocked down 3-pointers.
“I was happy with guys coming in,” Brey said. “The blue shirts played tonight in the game like they played in practice. I was really pleased with how they played. I think our starting group is still getting a feel of slowing down offensively in the half court. But we’ve got a lot to work with. We’ve got a lot to work with and a little bit more time to figure out what our rotation is but I thought the guys got in there and did what they were supposed to do.”
Colson led the starters with 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 17 minutes.
Vasturia and Jackson each scored 10 points plus dished out six and five assists, respectively. Auguste had nine points and eight rebounds. Beachem chipped in nine points as well before all the starters exited with 11:26 remaining in the second half.
They had already helped Notre Dame turn the game into a blowout by finishing off the first half with a 36-8 run. Much of that came during a 24-4 stretch during which Brey mixed personnel.
“I thought our blue shirts, when they came into the game they gave us a lift,” Jackson said. “Every single one of them. They did such a great job, especially Matt Farrell. He gave us a great lift. The freshmen came in, Austin Torres, everybody. Just really proud because they work so hard in practice and they push us to get better. It’s good to see those guys play that way.”
Farrell paced the reserves with 10 points, including 2-for-2 shooting from three-point range. He was 4-of-5 from the field overall with two rebounds, one steal and four assists against just one turnover.
He entered the game for Vasturia as the first guard off the bench, a sign of his ascent into the early season rotation.
“It was good for me,” Farrell said. “It was exciting. I didn’t want to get outside myself. I just wanted to play my game. It’s easy to play the way I play within the offense we have. It’s easy to flow. When I’m open I’m just gonna shoot my shot and hope for the best. When I can get other teammates involved that’s something I like to do. It’s easy to play my game with the teammates that I have.”
Brey got a long look at the reserves in the second half as they played all of the final 11 minutes. He’ll continue to evaluate that in another exhibition game while tinkering with some things with his starters as well.
Inserting Colson into the lineup changes some spacing, a point the Irish want to refine moving forward.
“We’re still a work in progress on how Zach and Bonzie space off of each other,” Brey said. “But as you saw tonight, we subbed a couple times and we got to one big guys and is it Matt Ryan or V.J. Beachem in your Pat Connaughton spot, where you’re really stretched.”