Spreading their wings: Irish overcome Jackson injury, slow first half to pull away from ACC bottom-dweller Boston College
Manuel De Jesus | Monday, January 25, 2016
Despite losing their leading scorer and captain, the Irish rallied Saturday to rout Boston College, 76-49.
Just over two minutes into the game, Irish junior point guard Demetrius Jackson pulled his right hamstring on a loose ball play, which kept him out for the rest of day. The Irish (14-5, 5-2 ACC) remained unfazed on both sides of the ball, as junior forward Steve Vasturia took over at point guard.
“I’m really proud of how we really didn’t let [Jackson’s injury] be a distraction at all,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “Steve Vasturia just slid over, handled the ball, and we methodically had a really good league win, so I’m really proud of our group.”
Vasturia and sophomore forward Bonzie Colson led the offense, scoring 16 points apiece. Colson dominated the paint in the first half converting six of nine shots, including a few free throws, for 14 points. Vasturia eased into Jackson’s role in the second half letting loose for 13 points, which included a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.
“It’s definitely different,” Vasturia said of playing point guard. “But I think we’ve done a good job all year of someone coming off the bench, as you saw today with [freshman guard Rex Plfueger] and [sophomore guard Matt Farrell]. … We just got to pick up and come in and play the way we play, and I think we did a good job of that today.”
In addition to remaining efficient on offense in Jackson’s absence, the team was also stifling on defense, forcing Boston College (7-12, 0-6 ACC) to commit 12 turnovers. The Irish held the Eagles to 28.6 percent from the field all while Plfueger defended senior guard Eli Carter, who led Boston College with 16 points. Pflueger also added a career-high nine points on offense.
“I just knew Coach wanted me to go in there and just play hard defense, and we knew that that was one of my best attributes,” Pflueger said. “I saw it as a challenge to myself to lock [Carter] down and make sure he didn’t score.”
The Irish got off to a fast start after Jackson left the game, going on a 15-4 run. Before the game got too out of hand, Carter scored eight of the next 11 points for the Eagles to cut the lead to four points. The Irish lead was cut to two points after Carter connected on his third three-pointer of the half with just over two minutes left before halftime.
In the second half, the Eagles were incapable of getting any offense going against Notre Dame’s defense.
Boston College shot 20 percent from the field in the second half and ended the game by making just two of its final 14 shots. To make things worse for the Eagles, they put the Irish on the line 16 times in the second half. And Notre Dame converted on all 16 opportunities.
“Coach emphasized a lot in practice that we need to get better on the defensive end … and I think we’ve made a big step today on the defensive end,” Colson said.
Winners of four straight conference games, Notre Dame has turned around its conference standing after starting the season off 1-2.
“We got a good little run going in this league, and any time you can do that, it’s really going to help the team and really going to help our confidence,” Vasturia said. “We got a couple of days off here, and we’ll have a chance to go win another one.”
The big question heading into this week will be whether or not Jackson will return from the hamstring injury to play against Syracuse on Thursday at the Carrier Dome.
“He’s logged a lot of miles and had to do a lot in that three-game stretch, so I’m not completely surprised that he got a little injury,” Brey said. “Again, it’s not season-ending, it’s something that he can come back from. When? We don’t know.”
With or without Jackson in the lineup, the Irish will travel to play Syracuse at Carrier Dome on Thursday at 7 p.m.