Vasturia, Irish conquer Mount
Zach Klonsinski | Wednesday, December 10, 2014
After appearing in the AP rankings for the first time since the 2012-2013 season, newly-christened No. 25 Notre Dame cemented its place in the national polls with a 93-67 defeat over Mount St. Mary’s last night at Purcell Pavilion.
“I thought we got off to a good start,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We were ready to come out of the gate.”
The Irish (9-1) began the game with 14-3 run, distancing themselves from the Mountaineers (2-5). Mount St. Mary’s pulled within four with 11:31 remaining in the half, 22-18, but a 30-4 run after an Irish timeout put the Irish firmly back in control. Back-to-back 3-pointers by sophomore guard Steve Vasturia and two more by classmate guard Demetrius Jackson sparked the run.
“To be honest, I forget,” Jackson said Brey’s message during the stoppage. “But it was probably something inspirational to kind of get us going.”
“There was no strategy,” Brey said with a laugh. “I wanted those guys sitting there to get in the game. … Darn they made me look good, didn’t they? I just wanted them in the game. I didn’t actually want to talk to anyone.”
Vasturia knocked down 14 points in the first half, one shy of his career-high last year against Pittsburgh. The sophomore set his new personal mark in the game, totaling 19 points, while also grabbing four rebounds and dishing out a trio of assists. He was perfect on the offensive end: Vasturia made all seven of his shots from the field, including three from distance as well as his two free-throw attempts. While it is usually fair to call Vasturia a defense-first player, the Medford, New Jersey native has been working hard on the offensive side of the game as well, he said.
“It’s just getting stronger, being more aggressive, and building your confidence game-by-game,” Vasturia said of his development. “It’s a testament to my teammates and my coaches just having confidence in me so I can feed off that.
“I got a lot of open looks and I was able to knock them down [tonight]. … It’s definitely something to build off. Just want to keep getting better every game, and as long as we’re winning basketball games, that’s all that matters.”
Brey said he has recently challenged Vasturia, and the sophomore responded against the Mountaineers.
“This is the next step in the whole aggressiveness theme,” Brey said of Vasturia. “He should hunt stuff just like Jerian and Demetrius and that’s the theme that we started with him before [Michigan State]. … We need him to be [aggressive], he can be, he’s potent.
“And then the other thing is he always takes away the best perimeter guy … He’s amazing to do that and take that shooter completely away.”
With Vasturia finding some offense of late, a growing sense of confidence is spreading throughout the Irish locker room, Grant said.
“Everybody’s a threat on the floor,” Grant said. “To have Steve now getting into a great rhythm, they’re going to have to guard everybody.”
Junior forward Zach Auguste (19), senior guard Jerian Grant (19) and Jackson (15) joined Vasturia in double-figures for the Irish, who have now scored at least 74 points in all 10 of their games this season. Notre Dame’s hot shooting continued against the Mountaineers as the Irish shot 36-for-61 (59%) from the field as well as 8-of-14 (57%) from behind the 3-point arc.
“I think we were just having fun out there,” Vasturia said. “We were pushing the ball, hitting a lot of open shots and that’s kind of what we’ve come to expect.”
The Irish also controlled the rebounding battle against a big Mountaineer team. Notre Dame finished with a 41-31 advantage on the glass, led by a game-high eight boards from Auguste. Senior guard/forward Pat Connaughton and junior forward Austin Burgett also pulled down six rebounds each, a career-high for Burgett.
“We had to come out focused,” Auguste said. “It was a good test for me to finally get some size to play against again, but it was fun out there.”
Notre Dame now turns its attention to its first ACC game of the season Saturday night when it hosts Florida State at Purcell Pavilion. Brey said one of his areas of focus is still on the defensive boards, especially in the 2-3 zone the Irish went to at times against The Mount.
“We’ll have to use [zone] some,” Brey said. “When it’s bigger, it’s pretty good. But we do need a change of pace as we go to league play. … Your concern about it is rebounding out of it though. We’re already having trouble sometimes blocking out when we have matchups, but then when you’re in zone you don’t have necessarily a definitive matchup when the shot goes up.
“I think we can defend the first shot. Can we keep to one-and-done enough to win on Saturday is a big concern and will be a big focus as we move forward in practice.”
The Irish and the Seminoles (4-4) are set to clash Saturday at 8 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.