NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Mike Brey didn’t need to wait long for his veterans to show up.
Bonzie Colson scored a game high 23 points and V.J. Beachem matched a career best with 22 in leading Notre Dame to an 89-65 win Saturday over Bryant in its regular season opener. Steve Vasturia added 16 points.
Colson also led the Irish with nine rebounds while shooting 8-of-11 from the field. He and Beachem combined to make all 13 of their free throw attempts.
“We work on that in practice,” Colson said. “The two-man game, reversing. Maybe (Beachem) posting up a little bit. I post up, pick and pop, reverse it. With everything, we just like to get in a rhythm and do our best to stay within ourselves.”
That helped the Irish (1-0) turn a close game into a second half rout.
Bryant (0-1) erased an early 9-0 deficit to take a 19-15 lead with 9:03 left in the first half. Notre Dame then recaptured and stretched the lead to 43-31 by halftime as Colson poured in 15 points and Beachem another 12.
Vasturia came on in the second half after starting 3-of-7 from the field. He hit his first and only 3-pointer to give the Irish a 66-49 lead about halfway through the second half.
Overall, Notre Dame shot just 3-of-16 from three-point range with Vasturia, Colson and Beachem each making one. But that didn’t keep the offense from being its usual efficient self: The Irish shot 49 percent from the field with 15 assists against just three turnovers.
Point guard Matt Farrell set a career high with six assists.
“It was a half court game,” Brey said, “which I still worry about. Who are we gonna be when it becomes a grinding, half court game? It was (Saturday). Who do we need to have on the floor with two bigs, spread it and play small? Then you’re a little smaller and they can beat you up inside. It’s a dynamic that really the last couple years we’ve tried to figure out.
“But I thought we got to the bonus and after movement we started driving the ball. We were smaller and that’s something I was watching going, ‘OK, if we’re having a hard time and we’re not making jump shots let’s drive that thing after some movement.’”
Getting to the rim turned the foul line into a weapon.
Colson (6-6) and Beachem (7-7) didn’t miss a free throw. Neither did Rex Pflueger (2-2), who finished with six points in 17 minutes. Notre Dame shot 26-of-29 from the free throw line with no player missing more than one attempt.
Beachem set a career high with his seven free throws made. Last season he never attempted more than five in a game.
“I wanna get fouled more, definitely,” Beachem said. “I think not only does that show I’m attacking but it can help me get into the rhythm of the game if I’m not hitting from the outside.”
Brey started emptying the bench with about five minutes to play and a 20-point lead. He ended up playing 12 players by the time walk-on Matt Gregory entered late.
Pflueger, TJ Gibbs (five points, 18 minutes) and Matt Ryan (two points, 13 minutes) took up most of the time in what looked like an eight-man rotation. Martinas Geben started and scored four points with seven rebounds but ended up playing only 12 minutes total.
Gibbs led all the reserves in minutes.
“Certainly your big three led the way with V.J., Bonzie and Steve,” Brey said. “I thought our bench gave us great stuff in the second half. They weren’t as good when we subbed in the first half but they gave us some really good stuff.”