Trailing the already 3-0 Panthers 29-23 with just under six minutes to play in the first half, the Notre Dame sophomore put on a one-man basketball clinic, forcing three turnovers, assisting on two buckets – both of which ended in three-point plays – grabbing two rebounds, and scoring six points during a 16-2 run that allowed the host Irish to take control of a competitive contest en route to a 86-78 victory Tuesday night at the Purcell Pavilion.
“I try to bring energy, dive on the ground for loose balls,” said Colson. “We knew they were a good team. We knew it would be a hard game, they hit us with a couple punches but we came back strong.”
Notre Dame followed its first half spurt by scoring on its first six possessions of the second stanza, a run punctuated by a steal and emphatic slam from junior V.J. Beachem that provided a 12-point lead and breathing room the hosts never relinquished.
Beachem finished with 19 points and a team-high eight rebounds, adding consistent weak-side defensive aid throughout the contest.
“I thought V.J. was fabulous. Rebounding the basketball, making big shots for us when we were dying to score in the first half,” said head coach Mike Brey. “I’m excited where he could be by January 1st.”
While Beachem and Colson keyed the game’s crucial runs it was Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson that imposed his will throughout, finishing with 20 points and seven assists.
“When one big was in and we were four around one, the floor was really open and that was a Demetrius Jackson field day,” Brey offered.
Jackson joined Colson playing with a fury during the aforementioned 16-2 run.
“Never want to be down, but always ready to embrace a challenge,” said Jackson. “I thought Bonzie did a great job with the energy, getting on the floor, trying to make plays.”
Colson finished the contest with 12 points and six boards but it was his energy to close the first half that allowed the Irish to play with supreme confidence thereafter
“Bonzie needed a night like that,” said Brey. “I thought his deflections and activity defensively were key for us, ending the half with a spurt.
“It was interesting to see (Colson) and V.J. react when we were hurting. Bonzie was all over the place – he’s been like a caged animal since Friday because Friday was the ultimate frustration. (Colson fouled out in under 15 minutes as his Irish teammates dispatched of St. Francis.)
AUGUSTE NOT TO BE OUTDONEThe Irish lead swelled to 20 midway through the second stanza, 65-45, but that margin was eventually cut to nine before Beachem nailed a corner triple and Zach Auguste – asleep at the switch in the first half – followed with a steal and score. An Auguste dunk and put-back layup thereafter effectively kept the Panthers at bay.
After playing just nine minutes (1 for 3 shooting) in the first half, the Irish senior big man finished the evening with 17 points on 8 of 11 shooting, collecting six rebounds with three assists.
“I came out in the second half strong. I just have to do a better job of putting two halves together, and I’ll do that down the road,” said Auguste.
Junior guard Steve Vasturia scored 13 points on 4 of 9 shooting adding four assists. Both Matt Ryan (5 points) and Matt Farrell played 17 minutes off the bench.
“Matt and Matt gave us good minutes,” said Brey. “Matt Ryan’s shot on an out-of-bounds under – we were dying to score. It was getting a little bit interesting. He didn’t even run the (play) right, that’s how good of a shooter he is. He bounced off somebody and made a 12-footer. He’s unconscious…and he was a young guy in there with the veterans. Hopefully he grows from that.”
Junior swingman Akeem Springs led Milwaukee with a game-high 21 points while Austin Arians chipped in 19 and Matt Tiby added 16 points with 13 rebounds.
The Irish shot 57 percent from the field to offset 14 three-point buckets from their visitors.
“Usually when you absorb 12 or more threes, you lose,” said Brey. “Fortunately our offensive efficiency was better. We had to score to escape.”
Notre Dame improved to 2-0 with the victory and will play host to UMass-Lowell Saturday afternoon at the Purcell Pavilion before taking to the road next week for the Orlando Classic and an opening date with Monmouth (victors at UCLA last weekend) on Thanksgiving.
Also in the weekend’s tournament field as potential opponents is the winner of an Iowa vs. Dayton matchup, and Irish Sweet 16 foe Wichita State. The Irish and ninth-ranked Shockers would meet in Sunday’s tournament championship should both win two contests prior.