NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Steve Vasturia came alive in time to lead Notre Dame through its final tune up before the ACC slate begins.
Vasturia led the Irish with 17 points in a 73-56 win over Liberty, shooting 5-of-7 from the field and 5-of-6 from the free throw line. He returned to double-digit scoring after totaling just 11 points combined against Indiana and Youngstown State.
Perhaps a little time at home over Christmas helped pull Vasturia out of that small slump. Shots went up while away from campus after a 1-for-7 shooting night against Youngstown. He went 0-of-5 from three-point range against the Hoosiers a game prior.
“I just kept shooting and playing the way I play,” Vasturia said. “Sometimes you’re not gonna make every shot. You’ve just gotta keep working and keep plugging.”
Zach Auguste recorded his eighth double-double this season with 13 points and 14 rebounds as Liberty brought consistent double teams. Flames head coach Ritchie McKay, a former assistant under Tony Bennett at Virginia, gave Auguste a preview of what to expect when league play begins against the Cavaliers on Saturday.
Auguste turned the ball over four times but otherwise handled the double teams well. He reached the double-double mark with seven minutes remaining in the game.
“There’s was a little bit loose, I know Virginia is gonna be a lot tighter with it,” Auguste said. “It’s good practice. We’ve been practicing with it this past week. They’ve been clamping me down in practice as well. Just getting that practice and those reps is great for me.”
Notre Dame (9-3) built a 32-23 lead by halftime before beginning to break the game open early in the second half.
V.J. Beachem, who scored nine points, hit consecutive three-pointers to spark an 11-0 run to begin the second half. Bonzie Colson (seven points, six rebounds) knocked down a jump shot and Vasturia hit a three-pointer before Liberty’s Evan Maxwell scored to end the drought.
But by then the Irish had a 43-25 lead they would not relinquish.
Colson hit a free throw with 11:33 left to stretch the advantage to 20 points, where it remained most of the game.
Head coach Mike Brey credited a better approach on offense in the second half.
“I didn’t think we were moving very well offensively (in the first half),” Brey said. “I thought we kinda stood. We never flattened the defense. I got after them a little bit. I thought we did a great job executing that first set to start the half then we come down in transition after getting a stop and V.J. hits another three.”
Brey worked in reserves Matt Ryan, Matt Farrell and Austin Torres during the first half. Austin Burgett, Rex Pflueger and Martinas Geben saw action in the second.
Ryan had six points on 2-of-6 shooting from three-point range while Farrell had eight points on 3-of-3 from the floor. Ryan is now 4-of-16 on three-pointers over the last three games, something Brey expects to improve.
“He’s young,” Brey said. “He almost plays too hard sometimes. He wants it too bad. For a shooter, you’ve got to be a little calmer. He wants it bad. The free throw he missed, I’ve never seen a guy shoot a free throw so fast. Like a guy was coming out to challenge his free throw … He’s just so into it. We’re just trying to keep him calm because you saw what he did with Iowa. He can change a game like that. We’ve got to keep coaching him, keep nurturing him.”
Notre Dame opens its ACC slate at Virginia (10-1) on Jan. 2.