Colson paces team to win
Manuel De Jesus | Thursday, March 5, 2015
In the first game between the two rivals as ACC opponents, No. 12 Notre Dame made its last seven field goals to put away No. 16 Louisville, 71-59, on Wednesday night and assured itself at least the third seed in the upcoming ACC tournament.
Notre Dame (25-5, ACC 13-4) is usually led in scoring by senior guard Jerian Grant, but sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson and freshman forward Bonzie Colson took on the scoring load en route to two of the best performances of their careers. Jackson scored 21 points, grabbed five boards and had four steals against the Cardinals (23-7, ACC 11-7). Colson was second in scoring for the Irish with a career-high 17 points and also led the team with nine rebounds in 26 minutes of play.
“You’ve heard me say [Colson] has been able to deliver like this because his attitude was so good the first half of the season when he wasn’t playing,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “He wasn’t whining, he wasn’t complaining. He cheered for [Austin] Torres and Zach Auguste more than anybody. So then when you call on him, I think you’re pure, your mind is clear, and you can deliver. The one thing he’s done, he’s energized the rest of our players. Our guys love having him in there.”
Colson, who has scored in double figures for three straight games, was a perfect 7-for-7 on the night. He also hit three of his five free throw attempts. Notre Dame converted 53 percent of their shots, showing no rust after an eight-day break since its 65-60 loss to Syracuse on Feb. 24.
“I just have been working,” Colson said. “The coaches have been giving me great confidence, so I just try to come off the bench and bring the energy. My teammates have always been there for me, and that’s something that has been there since the summer when I came in, so I just try to come off the bench and try to do everything that I can do to win the game.”
The Irish led 42-31 at halftime after Grant’s two-point buzzer beater, but Louisville came out strong at the start of the second half. The Cardinals went on an 11-point run to tie the game at 42. Junior Montrezl Harrell led the Cardinals throughout the game, scoring a game-high 23 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Sophomore guard Terry Rozier, the team’s leading scorer (17.4 points per game), also chipped in 11 points to go along with five assists. Senior guard Wayne Blackshear added 11 points with a pair of 3-pointers, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Notre Dame’s late surge.
The loss of senior guard Chris Jones, who led the Cardinals in 3-point shooting before his dismissal from the team, left a noticeable disparity on the stat sheet, as Louisville converted just over 23 percent beyond the arc against Notre Dame’s extended zone and man defense.
“We know that this was what we needed from this game,” Colson said. “Coach Brey has been giving us great confidence that we could come in here and win. We had a bad loss to Syracuse, and we know we had to bounce back strong.”
With the win, Notre Dame has clinched not only its best road conference record ever at 7-2, but they have also claimed the best conference record in school history at 13-4 in their second season in the ACC.
“I’m really proud of my team to come in this atmosphere and beat an NCAA tournament team in here,” Brey said. “I was a little concerned about how sharp we would be — we haven’t played in eight days. I thought we responded great. … For us, we talked about it being another resume win for our NCAA tournament resume. I’m glad our guys responded to that.”
Notre Dame will head back home for its final home game of the regular season against Clemson on Saturday at the Purcell Pavilion. Tip off is scheduled for 4 p.m.