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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame tops Loyola in total team effort

| Monday, November 21, 2016

Before heading into the 10th annual Legends Classic Tournament on Monday, Notre Dame beat Loyola Maryland 83-48 Friday night at Purcell Pavilion for its third straight win to open the season.

While the Irish offense shined brightest in the other two wins, the 35-point rout of the Greyhounds (1-3) was led by the defense, which held its opponent to 30 percent shooting from the floor. From early on in the game, it was evident that Notre Dame’s size was going to play a factor in the rest of the contest, as the Irish (3-0) recorded four blocks midway through the first half.

In addition to the eight total blocks, Notre Dame recorded 13 steals, which was a season high.

“I loved how we defended,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “We were flying all over the place. Getting deflections, rotating, 13 steals — we got a bunch of deflections, we had a couple of sequences where guys were on the floor. We love that energy, and, again, I’m hoping that we can be a very good defensive team to help us on nights when we’re not making shots.”

Junior V.J. Beachem dunks the ball.Michelle Mehelas | The Observer

Junior V.J. Beachem dunks the ball.

On this particular night, the offense complemented the stout defense. From the very start of the game, Notre Dame’s senior captains — forward V.J. Beachem and guard Steve Vasturia — scored using their size against the much smaller Greyhound defenders. Junior guard Matt Farrell followed up those scores with a savvy assist from the baseline to a cutting junior forward Martinas Geben, who emphatically dunked the ball for his first points of the game. Later in the half, freshman guard Temple Gibbs turned a block on one end of the floor to a pass to sophomore guard Rex Plfueger, who converted the assist into three points.

Junior captain forward Bonzie Colson had a game-high four blocks on the night, while Beachem and Vasturia led the team with four and three steals, respectively. Offensively, Beachem scored a game-high 21 points with three 3-pointers, Colson connected on eight of 12 shot attempts for 19 points and Vasturia added nine points.

Beachem was particularly aggressive in his shot selections, which helped him score eight straight points late in the first half. After hitting a long jumper, Beachem connected on two 3-pointers, which were all a part of a 23-8 run that eventually helped propel the Irish to a 17-point cushion in the first half.

“That’s something I’ve been focusing on my entire career, and it’s finally coming into fruition as far as being a more aggressive jump shooter,” Beachem said. “It’s something I had to develop into and get confidence in. You know, it always helps when your jump shots are going down.”

Notre Dame also showcased its ball movement for the third straight game, notching 23 assists against Loyola Maryland. In the last three games, the Irish have recorded 15, 23 and 23 assists, which, according to Brey, was a feat that the team has talked about accomplishing for some time now.

“It goes with leadership, and it starts in the summer with your older guys,” he said. “When I’m not around — I’m only with them once a week — they’re like, ‘Here’s how we play. Here’s how we do.’ Again, our three freshman are very mature and smart. They’ve kind of looked around and said, ‘OK, this is how they do it.’ My theme is so enforced by our upperclassmen. I talked to them yesterday; we were doing scouting, and I said, ‘I got home the other night, and I was watching the Warriors game and a graphic went up there. They’ve had five straight games with 30 assists. Why can’t we get 20?’”

Hitting on all aspects of its game, Notre Dame now prepares to face off against a quality opponent that made the NCAA tournament last season. The Irish will travel to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York — where they won two NCAA tournament games in the spring — to face Colorado. The Buffaloes (3-0) and Irish have never faced off before, but now they’ll meet head-to-head in one of the Legends Classic semifinals. The other semifinal will consist of Northwestern and Texas.

The Irish understand the next slate on their schedule will see an increase in quality of opponents, so their focus has turned towards rising to the occasion and winning the Legends Classic tournament.

“I think that this moment that we have is great, but at the same time we got to flush these three games, remember the habits that we carry over from the games and practices. But these three games don’t matter anymore,” Beachem said. “We’ve got a new opponent we’ve got to lock in on starting tomorrow.”

Notre Dame will hope to not only continue playing tough offensively, but also remain defensively potent against potential NCAA tournament teams. According to Colson, there’s no other way to walk away from Barclays Center with the tournament title.

“You just have to do it,” Colson said. “There are no ifs, ands or buts. We’re ready to play bigger competition, and we can’t wait for the challenge to play our game.”

Notre Dame will tip-off against Colorado at 7 p.m. in Brooklyn, New York.

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About Manuel De Jesus

Manuel De Jesus is a junior from Chicago, Illinois. He is an American Studies major with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He is currently covering ND Volleyball, Men's Soccer and Men's Basketball.

Contact Manuel