1. COLSON COMES ALIVE
There was no indication that sophomore Bonzie Colson was about to do anything special. On the heels of a lackluster performance in the season-opener four days earlier in which he made 1-of-4 shots from the field with just two rebounds in 15 minutes of action before fouling out, Colson made his third career start Tuesday night against Milwaukee (3-1) as the Irish (2-0) trailed by six with 6:13 left in the first half.
Playing the “big” position for an undersized lineup as Zach Auguste himself struggled out of the gate, Colson ignited a 16-2 run to close out the first half, hitting a short-corner jumper, scoring inside on a nifty pass from Demetrius Jackson and adding two free throws with 4.7 seconds remaining to turn a 29-23 deficit into a 39-31 Irish lead at the break.
Colson also played a hand in forcing three turnovers during that span while dishing out a couple assists, including one to V.J. Beachem, whose three-pointer at the 4:19 mark put the Irish ahead for good.
“I feel like I play my best when I let the game come to me,” said Colson, who finished with 12 points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot in 26 minutes of action. “I did that tonight.
“I have to dive for loose balls and do anything I can to help the team win. Once I let the game come to me and was confident in everything I did, I did well. That’s the best way I can play. If I do that, I’ll be fine and just have fun with the game.”
2. OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY
With less than six minutes to play in the first half, the Irish had 23 points and were struggling to find a rhythm and effective mix as Zach Auguste opened in a bit of a funk with just a basket and two rebounds in nine minutes of mostly ineffective basketball.
Mike Brey went to a smaller lineup of Demetrius Jackson, Steve Vasturia, V.J. Beachem, Bonzie Colson and a rotation of the two Matts – Farrell and Ryan – to close the first half and turned a six-point deficit into an eight-point lead at the break.
Brey went back to his starting lineup to start the second half and the Irish explosion continued. The Irish scored 26 points in the first 7:40 of the second half to complete a 42-16 run. That’s 42 points in a 13:30 span.
Jackson led all Irish scorers with 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting to go along with seven assists.
“For us to have 20 assists, five turnovers, and shoot 57 percent from the floor, I thought when our two bigs were in, we ran the right stuff to take advantage of that, which is more of that circle action,” Brey said. “When one big was in and we were four-around-one, the floor was really open, and that was a Demetrius Jackson field day.
“Go, go, find, zip, rip…we’ve got shooters and a ball screen big guy, which was Zach rolling right down the middle. That’s real growth for us offensively. We made some right choices offensively with who we substituted and how we played.”
3. BEACHEM: LONG-RANGE SPARK
When playing a team like Milwaukee, which made 25 three-points in sweeping three games against Denver, Lipscomb and home-team Santa Clara en route to the Cable Car Classic championship, you better be prepared to either come close to matching the Panthers’ long-range barrage or dominate the paint scoring.
Ultimately, Milwaukee had 14 three-pointers to Notre Dame’s six. But the Irish won the paint scoring, 44-24, and until that part of Notre Dame’s game caught up, junior V.J. Beachem provided the only long-distance contribution on the team.
Notre Dame was 3-of-9 from three-point range in the first half with Beachem connecting on all three for the Irish on four attempts.
“We don’t want to let anybody come into our house and out-shoot us,” Beachem said. “They’re a great shooting team, which is something that we knew. We did a good job of contesting. They made some really tough ones, but we were really guarding the arc.”
The Irish never really did slow down the Panthers’ three-point attack. After making 6-of-9 in the first half, they were 8-of-12 in the second half to finish a sizzling 14-of-21 (66.7 percent) for the game.
But Beachem helped keep Notre Dame within striking distance in the first half and added another three-pointer in the second half. Bonzie Colson and Matt Ryan each added three-pointers within the first eight minutes of the second half, including Ryan’s bomb at the 12:20 mark that gave the Irish their largest lead of the game (65-45).
“I thought V.J. was fabulous,” Brey say. “He continues to grow and rebound the basketball. Stepping up, making big shots for us when we were dying to score in the first half.”