Notre Dame, Ind. – Leading by just six points at intermission, Notre Dame used a 19-3 early in the second half to break open what had been a competitive contest against an aggressive Loyola squad, winning 81-61 at the Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish piled on their guests after the Ramblers cut Notre Dame’s lead to 40-38 at the 18:38 mark of the second stanza. Key to the continuous seven-plus minute surge was a trio of three-pointers that bookended the explosion, the first by Steve Vasturia, the latter pair by freshman Matt Ryan to provide a 59-41 margin
The duo was joined during the game-changing run by forwards V.J. Beachem and Bonzie Colson, plus point guard Demetrius Jackson. That smallish lineup proved to be the difference on a day in which senior center Zach Auguste was limited to eight points and three turnovers.
“Matt Ryan really energized us tonight,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey. “He just really believes. He’s a tough guy, tough kid. He had a big steal in the midst of that run, too.”
The Irish defense was dented in the first half by five three-point buckets – five from the same corner, that is – and six of 12 long-range shooting overall from the hot hands of a host of confident Loyola shooters.
The visitors rarely trailed by more than seven as a result despite torrid shooting by the Irish who made good on 13 of 23 first half shots (5 of 10 from long range) plus all nine of their free throw attempts but still led by just six at the break.
In addition to the three-point offerings of Ryan and Vasturia, Notre Dame’s 19-3 surge was aided by Jackson (a backcourt steal and score), Colson (a blocked shot and five points including a tip-in goal), Beachem (contested bucket on the break and a blocked shot) and Matt Farrell (a wing 3).
It was Colson’s energy that sparked the run.
“Playing around the bucket…When you take Zach out and you put Matt Ryan in (Colson) gets very effective,” said Brey. “You’re the lone big and we have four guys that can stretch the floor.
“That was probably the most effective lineup in the first half and in the second half.”
Ryan and Colson led the victorious Irish with 14 points apiece and were joined in double digits by Jackson, Beachem, and Vasturia, 10 each. Colson and Beachem both provided a team-high seven rebounds. The forward pair combined to dish out seven assists and block four shots as well.
Tyson Smith and Donte Ingram led Loyola (5-4 after the defeat) with 12 points apiece. Smith hit 4 of 7 offerings from downtown.
The Irish out-rebounded their guests 36 to 23 while connecting on 58 percent of their field goal attempts including 10 of 20 from beyond the arc.
After a shaky start, the Irish defense limited the Ramblers to 43 percent shooting on the afternoon. The visitors connected on just 11 of 27 shots in the second stanza, due in large part to a tactical change.
“They were hard to deal with in man-to-man,” said Brey. “But our zone kind of changed the complexion. Amen for zone.
“It’s a completely different rhythm playing against it,” continued Brey of his 2-3 zone, one augmented at times by a full-court, 1-2-2 “tempo” press from which the Irish gained a back-breaking steal and dunk by Jackson.
AROUND THE RIM
-- No Irish player attempted more than 10 field goals.
-- The Irish have scored between 81 and 87 points in each of their six home games to date with today’s total reached despite Brey emptying his bench with more than seven minutes remaining.
-- A lineup of Colson, Ryan, Jackson, Vasturia, and Beachem produced a 15-5 run in just over four minutes of first half action (including an 8-0 surge) to provide breathing room after the Ramblers knotted the score at 25 at the 5:16 mark.
-- Ryan’s 14 points (4 of 6 from three-point range) marked a career high.
-- Notre Dame improved to 7-2 with the win and will travel to Indianapolis Saturday, Dec. 19 for a Crossroads Classic contest against state-rival Indiana. The Irish follow with a Monday night tip against Youngstown State before breaking for the Holidays.
A date with Liberty on Dec. 29 serves as the final nonconference outing before Notre Dame begins ACC play at defending regular season champion Virginia.