Irish pull away from Eagles
Zach Klonsinski | Sunday, February 22, 2015
After almost blowing a 25-point lead in its first meeting of the year with Boston College, there was no such scare Saturday afternoon for No. 10 Notre Dame, as it cruised to an 87-70 win over the Eagles at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
It wasn’t the usual cast of characters who led the Irish (24-4, 12-3 ACC) to victory over traditional rival Boston College (9-17, 1-13) either.
Several players to reach double-figure points for Notre Dame were freshman forward Bonzie Colson, sophomore forward V.J. Beachem and sophomore guard Steve Vasturia, none of whom average over 10 points per game on the year. Colson finished with a career-high 16 points to lead the team, while Beachem and Vasturia ended up with 10 points apiece.
Sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson (15 points) and junior forward Zach Auguste (14) and senior guard Jerian Grant (10) all chipped in to help the balanced Irish attack. Grant also dished out 11 assists, seven of them in the first half, to finish with his second straight double-double. Irish coach Mike Brey said after the game Grant doesn’t have to score to make his presence felt.
“I thought Jerian Grant tonight was great because they’re really aware of him, and they kind of almost double off of ball screens,” Brey said.
All the attention on Grant leaves other Irish players open, and the senior is more than happy to share the ball with them, Brey said.
“He just made some easy plays, got guys shots and didn’t worry about his numbers,” Brey said. “He was such a man out there, dragging ball screens and kicking back while other guys were making plays. He’s been playing that way all year. He just wants to win.”
The six players in double figures for the Irish matched a season high for Notre Dame. That number almost reached seven — Massachusetts native and senior forward Pat Connaughton finished with eight points and pulled down four rebounds in 31 minutes of play.
Eagles coach Jim Christian said the balanced Irish offensive attack created headaches for his squad.
“It’s hard not to be unbelievably impressed with what they do on offense,” Christian said. “They’re a very difficult team to guard. They have five guys who can make plays. The floor is stretched out. They put you in so many tough rotations, and they shot the ball really well. You almost have to pick your poison.”
After a close first half, Notre Dame took a 37-32 lead into halftime, far short of its 16-point lead at intermission during the teams’ first game Feb. 4. The Irish pulled away in the second half, however, eventually stretching their lead to 21.
Notre Dame finished the game shooting 66 percent (35-of-53) from the field, the team’s highest percentage of the season. The Irish also shot 75 percent in a second half that saw them go 18-of-24 from the field, 4-of-6 from 3-point range and a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line.
“We are really talented on [the offensive] end of the floor,” Brey said. “The last two games we’ve been, as a whole, in another gear, and I hope we can certainly continue that because it’s coming at the right time of the year.”
“They made us pay,” Christian said. “If we made any mistake or if we got caught in a rotation and they rotated out, that’s not an easy shot to make.”
In addition to Connaughton, Auguste and Colson also made homecomings Saturday afternoon. The three Massachusetts natives combined for 28 points, 17 rebounds and a pair of assists in leading their team to victory.
Notre Dame returns to friendly confines Tuesday night when it welcomes Syracuse to Purcell Pavilion. Tip off is scheduled for 8 p.m.