INSIDER: Auguste drives Irish into postseason play
Manuel De Jesus | Friday, March 18, 2016
It’s easy to overlook Zach Auguste. Surrounded by NBA talent throughout his four years at Notre Dame, it can be easy to forget how essential the Marlborough, Massachusetts, native is to the Irish.
Jerian Grant. Pat Connaughton. Demetrius Jackson.
Those are some of the names that quickly come to mind when thinking about the recent history of Notre Dame basketball. But over these last four years, Auguste has quietly made a name for himself. From sitting behind Garrick Sherman and Tom Knight his freshman year, Auguste has grown into one of the ACC’s best big men.
In the ACC quarterfinal matchup against Duke, it was almost impossible to look past Auguste’s performance.
Down by 16 points in the second half, it looked as if the defending ACC champions were on their way out of the conference tournament. A sudden 14-0 run flipped the script for the Irish, which put them right back into the contest and eventually forced it to go to overtime. And it took a total team effort to walk away from the quarterfinals with a win: Junior forward V.J. Beachem scored 19 points, which included four critical 3-pointers, sophomore forward Bonzie Colson hauled in 12 boards and added another 12 points and even freshman forward Matt Ryan sparked some offense early in the game with three 3-pointers.
But without Auguste, the Irish don’t win that game.
He out-rebounded Blue Devils centers Marshall Plumlee and Chase Jeter 22 rebounds to 10 and scored a team-high 19 points. Let’s not leave out the fact that of those 22 boards, the 6-foot-10 forward brought down eight offensive boards, which was four more than any Blue Devil.
Auguste’s tremendous performance against Duke wasn’t an anomaly. In Notre Dame’s pivotal win against North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the South Region, Auguste recorded 15 points and 10 rebounds. Against then-No. 13 Louisville, he recorded another double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Against Miami, the No. 3 seed in the South Region, he tallied 18 points and 11 rebounds. In his final game at Purcell Pavilion, the senior put up 24 points and hauled in 11 rebounds.
He’s 14th in the nation in rebounding, averaging 10.8 rebounds per game, and tied for 12th in double-doubles with 19. There’s little debate about whether or not Auguste has truly made a name for himself during his four years at Notre Dame. Despite that, the third-team All ACC forward is still determined to have his name remembered across the country during the upcoming NCAA tournament.
“Individually, I just want to go out there and play the best I can to play and make a name for myself so that I can compete with the best of them,” Auguste said. “As a team, we’ve just gotta continue to play our basketball, take what we learned from last year and use it as a learning experience to try and boost our confidence to really just play deep into March.”
In last season’s Elite Eight run, Notre Dame was a much different team. Its backcourt was substantially deeper with the leadership of Grant and Connaughton, which spread the court out for Auguste. He scored 25 against Northeastern, 15 against Wichita State and 20 in the two-point loss to a then-undefeated Kentucky squad.
This season, the roster is thinner. Jackson and Vasturia, two of the team’s main contributors in last season’s run have struggled lately, and turnovers have made it difficult for the offense to get into the rhythm it did late against Duke in the ACC quarterfinals.
Even with those struggles, Auguste has still managed to play well and has continued to rack up the double-doubles. But he knows just as well as most that it’s going to take a team effort if Notre Dame wants to replicate last year’s tournament run.
“It really has to start off with the leaders,” Auguste said. “Me, Steve and Demetrius. We have to set the tone. Especially me as a senior. I’ve got to come out there and be consistent. I’ve got to be that rock for the team, and that’s not about just scoring, but being there on the defensive or offensive glass … and being strong enough to hold out our opponent.”
He’s been as consistent as he’s ever been at Notre Dame. But if the Irish want to make it out of their region, which includes power teams like North Carolina, Xavier, West Virginia and Kentucky, Auguste is likely going to have to play some of the best basketball of his career.
But Irish fans shouldn’t put it past a guy who’s averaging a double-double this season. It’s gone unnoticed by many across the nation, but the senior is a major threat for this Notre Dame team.
“Early on, it was just me trying hard to establish that consistency and now that I’ve put it together, it’s come second nature to me,” Auguste said. “Just something that you go out there and do and something – I can’t do it every night, but I strive for that. If we just stick to what we do, we come out hungry, have that edge and have a great start, I think we’ll be hard to play.”