Irish Roll First-Place ‘Noles

Notre Dame avenged its first conference loss of the season Saturday night, beating Florida State 84-72 at the Purcell Pavilion.

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame missed 15 of its 22 three-point shots and allowed 54 points in the paint Saturday night in South Bend. It also hammered the ACC’s co first-place squad, beating No. 14 Florida State, 84-72.

Irish junior forward Bonzie Colson owned the evening, posting a career-high 33 points to go with a game-high 13 rebounds, numbers that more than doubled every Florida State competitor’s individual contributions for the evening.

“He was unbelievable at setting the tone again. Just the adjustments we’ve made playing small and having him out on the perimeter touching it has really helped him,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey of his star junior.

“Right now he’s in an unbelievable groove. He’s getting it in areas where they can’t guard him, he’s sticking the three; he’s making free throws. That was one of the great performances in our program’s history against a big-time team on National TV…and we needed it.”

Aiding Colson’s cause was classmate Matt Farrell who dominated the athletic Seminoles in penetration, dishing out nine assists and providing his Irish mates with a trio of three-pointers and five layups in the process.

Farrell added 15 points and five defensive rebounds for the hosts who led for the game’s final 37 minutes.

“He is so confident with this smaller lineup because the floor is open and he can get in there more,” said Brey of his point guard. “He’s having a lot of fun and right now we’re going to live with some turnovers because he has to make a lot of decisions with (the ball).”

Farrell finished with just three turnovers after committing six in the teams’ first meeting in Tallahassee, an 83-80 Florida State victory on January 18.

BOARDS AND BRICKS

Notre Dame out-rebounded its (much) taller and longer visitors 41-34 and limited Florida State to just eight second-chance points, but it was the Seminoles horrid shooting effort from the charity stripe that kept them at bay throughout the evening.

Shooting just 66 percent over their last five games from the foul line, the Seminoles missed a head-shaking 15 of 22 attempts – a handful not close.

“I wasn’t counting on that,” said Brey of the Seminoles struggles from the charity stripe. “That was interesting. I haven’t seen that from them. I think our crowd was part of that.”

Notre Dame’s student body caught on to their visitors struggles with charity shots early, chanting “0-for-4” and adding to the miscues throughout.

Seminoles guards Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes combined to hit just 4 of their 13 free throw attempts. Rathan-Mayes scored 11 points but just one in the second stanza. Florida State was led by Terrance Mann’s 15 points while Bacon added a dozen as did Trent Forrest off the bench.

Notre Dame offset its own inconsistent shooting from long range with a 19-for-21 performance from the charity stripe. Thirty-eight Irish points in the paint likewise lessened the lane carnage absorbed on the other end.

Key to the latter effort was senior guard Steve Vasturia who posted 15 points without the benefit of a three-point bucket. Twelve of Vasturia’s points were the result of five driving layups – plus a dunk – the first of his college career.

“I had a few in high school but that was probably my best one,” said Vasturia of his one-handed throw down on the fast break to provide Notre Dame its final points.

Vasturia’s dunk offered a moment of levity post-game but also served as a fitting end after a day of determined finishes at the rim.

“I thought we had some great drives tonight – some to finish, some to just get in the lane and distort them,” said Brey. “They kind of had to adjust to us and substitute and play small.

“Playing small longer and really being married to it has been really good for us. Our small guys are tough dudes. Being big may be overrated,” he joked.

The win brings Notre Dame to within 1.5 games of first place in a top-heavy Athletic Coast Conference. At 8-5, Notre Dame is tied with Syracuse and trails Duke and Louisville (8-4) as well as Virginia (8-3) and North Carolina (9-3) in the league chase.

Florida State fell to 9-4 in defeat.

“Our guys were excited to play these guys,” said Brey. “They felt they had a shot in Tallahassee. They’re really good; Florida State’s really gifted, but a heck of a win for us.”

Notre Dame travels to 2-11 Boston College Tuesday before taking on 3-10 North Carolina State in Raleigh on Saturday. The Irish finish their regular season with a trio of rematches, first at home against Georgia Tech – last second victors over Notre Dame in Atlanta two weeks ago – the Eagles, and a road tilt at conference contender Louisville – vanquished by the Irish on January 4 in South Bend.


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