V.J. Beachem, Steve Vasturia look to get back on track against Mountaineers
Marek Mazurek | Friday, March 17, 2017
BUFFALO, N.Y. — One day after its 60-58 victory over Princeton, Notre Dame is back to business.
Now that the glow of winning has dissipated, one thing is clear: The Irish will have to play a lot better offensively to beat West Virginia on Saturday.
The Irish (26-9, 12-6 ACC) scored well below their season average of 77 points per game Thursday as 12th-seeded Princeton held Notre Dame to just 60 points. In the second half, the Irish only put up 24 points on 31.8 percent shooting, and had the Tigers shot just a little closer to their season average, they would instead be matched up with the Mountaineers (27-8, 12-6 Big 12).
Of Notre Dame’s 24 second-half points, junior guard Matt Farrell and junior forward Bonzie Colson had 16, and Farrell said the team will look to create more movement Saturday.
“I think we got stagnant with our movement in the second half,” Farrell said. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well and we weren’t moving well offensively, we weren’t screening that well. I think we just need to move better. We need to move and set screens and we need to flow better. That’s something that we’re definitely going to try and do tomorrow, space the floor out, dribble drives and stuff like that.”
While the whole team struggled to knock down shots against Princeton, Notre Dame’s senior captains — V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia — looked out of sync. Vasturia and Beachem went a combined 4-of-21 shooting in the game. Vasturia ended with 10 points, while Beachem tied his season-low of two points.
Notre Dame will need its leaders to step up against West Virginia’s vaunted press defense, and Vasturia said he believes both he and Beachem are capable of doing just that.
“[We have to] knock down more shots, continue to be aggressive,” Vasturia said. “I think that’s the one thing that’s good about this team, we have a bunch of guys that can step up and score and contribute. I think for myself and V.J., I think we’ll bounce back and knock down shots; that’s something we’ve been doing all season.”
Beachem went 1-for-9 Thursday and missed a couple of good looks in the second half on drives to the basket. For Beachem, getting looks early in the game may be the key to a rejuvenated offensive showing.
“I think just finding a rhythm early,” Beachem said. “If I can get into a rhythm early, I think that’s when I have a big night. Hopefully, I can get into a rhythm early, whether that’s a layup or knocking down a 3, something early seems to get me going.
“I try to just let the game come to myself early, I try to get myself really going in the second half — that’s something I might have to look to do tomorrow especially against the press. I might have a good look early in the shot clock and I have to rise up and shoot it.”
And the team knows Vasturia and Beachem are due. The two seniors have a chance to become the winningest class in Notre Dame’s history, both in total wins and in NCAA tournament wins, and that experience is a big reason things are business as usual in the Irish locker room.
“I’m always looking to get them the ball,” Farrell said. “They’re the two guys that have been in this position before and have the experience, the two best players on our team. We need to try to get them the ball and get them going, so I’ll definitely be looking for them. They played well enough for us to win, that’s all that matters.”
Irish head coach Mike Brey also expects his senior captains to bounce back but praised their ability to play defense and affect the game in other ways if their shots are not falling.
“We need those guys to be who they’ve been for most of their careers,” Brey said. “One thing I was pleased about, and this is where this team is different, when individuals on this team are not making shots or having a good offensive night, they don’t let it carry over to the defensive end. I think that’s what V.J.’s made great growth. Our guys did that yesterday. We weren’t flowing great offensively — I think you have to give Princeton some credit, but we came back down and defended, and we’re going to need to do the same thing.”
And against an aggressive press defense like West Virginia’s, mental toughness can carry the day.
“I think our mental toughness needs to be the best that it’s ever been,” Farrell said. “We’re going to turn the ball over — it’s what they do, they’re really good at it. We need to have to have quick memories and stick to what we do and focus on what we need to do to get of here with a win.”