Mazurek: V.J. Beachem’s resurgence is a great sign for Notre Dame
Marek Mazurek | Saturday, January 7, 2017
Hello, Mr. Beachem. Welcome back.
Did you enjoy your break? You did? Oh, that’s great to hear.
The team is so glad you’re back now, because it needed you.
You see, while you were gone — scoring only eight points in your last two games combined — Steve Vasturia and Matt Farrell did most of the heavy lifting. The senior wing Vasturia knocked down the game-winning 3 against Pittsburgh last Saturday, and he and the junior guard Farrell combined for 46 points Wednesday when the Irish beat Louisville, 77-70.
But Saturday afternoon, it was all V.J. Beachem. Well, not all Beachem — Farrell and Vasturia chipped in 15 and 14 points, respectively.
But Beachem led the Irish scoring effort with a season-high 22 points on a career-high six 3-point field goals. And No. 23 Notre Dame (14-2, 3-0 ACC) needed it Saturday afternoon to take down Clemson (11-4, 1-2 ACC), 75-70.
Beachem joined the parade of 3’s early, knocking down three in the first half and never looking back. He was aggressive. He was consistent — 11 points in both halves. And he was just what the Irish needed.
He certainly wasn’t perfect. He shot 8-for-14 from the field and airballed a shot in the final 10 minutes of the game. But when you shoot 60 percent from beyond the arc, a lot of things can be forgiven.
For someone looking to make it into the NBA, Beachem’s resurgence is a good sign for his prospects.
It is even better for the team.
If Beachem continues to score 15-20 points a game, the Irish have a triple-headed monster with him, Farrell and Vasturia.
Heck, throw in junior forward Bonzie Colson — who’s cranking out double-doubles — and it’s a four-headed monster. Or, if you count a bench that includes strong defensive players like sophomore guard Rex Pflueger and senior forward Austin Torres, it’s a five- or six-headed monster.
Maybe I’m a bit obsessed with hydras, but the point remains: Notre Dame has a lot of threats.
If a team chooses to shut down Beachem, like Louisville did, then Vasturia and Farrell have open lanes to the basket. If a team elects to help out on drives, like Clemson did, then Beachem and company have open 3-point shots. And whatever an opposing team chooses to do on defense, Colson will be a nuisance in the middle of the paint.
Saturday’s win against Clemson was a great example of that. Beachem was aggressive, and he drew the defense’s attention early in the first half. Even though he didn’t hit either of the two 3’s late in the game, he was certainly on Clemson’s radar.
Clemson was thinking about covering Beachem, not Vasturia, on an inbound play with under two minutes left. Vasturia caught the inbound pass and swished home a 3. It’s a subtle mental shift for the defense, but in the pedal-to-the-metal world of ACC basketball, that extra second is all it takes.
Beachem breaking out of his slump also takes much of the mental pressure off the rest of the team. If Farrell has an off night, like he did in the first half against the Tigers, the Irish can survive. Even if someone has two poor showings in a row, like Beachem did, the Irish still have the depth to put up two wins.
Simply put, Notre Dame is a really good team with Beachem struggling. They proved that with two wins over tough ACC competition. But if Beachem can perform at a consistently high level, the Irish go from good to elite. There is no one in the ACC who should be favored over the Irish at home, and maybe only North Carolina and Duke would be favored when the Irish go on the road.
So, welcome back V.J. Beachem.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.