CLEVELAND – Nothing ever seemed to faze Notre Dame freshman Bonzie Colson, until everything did.
So good, so focused, so locked in on his duties as an energy/effort guy off the bench this college basketball season, Colson admitted that stepping on the big stage of the NCAA tournament last weekend in Pittsburgh got the better of him. After going for four points and two rebounds in a second-round win over Northeastern, Colson played nine scoreless minutes in Saturday’s overtime victory over Butler.
It was only the second time since he became a main rotation guy in mid-January that Colson finished a game with no points.
“Yeah, man, I have to go out there and just relax,” Colson said Wednesday in a cramped Quicken Loans Arena locker room. “I can’t just go out there and think about rebounding or anything. I just have to go out there and play my game, let it come to me.”
When Colson’s done that, he’s done well. Like when he went for 17 points and nine rebounds in the regular-season road finale at Louisville. Or when he had 17 points with five rebounds against Duke in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Colson plans to be better Thursday against Wichita State in a Midwest Regional semifinal, mainly because he won’t dwell on what he didn’t do against Butler.
“At the end of the day, we won that game so it doesn’t matter how I played individually,” he said. “That game’s away. I’ve got to get my mindset right and play hard and play with a lot of energy.”
Big man, big effort?
Irish junior power forward Zach Auguste followed a familiar routine when he learned Sunday that Wichita State would be Notre Dame’s next opponent.
He found a Shockers roster and scanned it for big men. He was shocked to learn that no Wichita State starter stands over 6-foot-7, which means the 6-10 Auguste could get off to a solid start Thursday.
“Another chance for me to play well,” said Auguste, who delivered 25 points in the NCAA opener against Northeastern before tying his career high with 13 rebounds against Butler. “I’ve got to try and focus on what I can to outplay them. I have to use my size to my advantage and dictate the glass.
“I’m not going to try and make it too difficult.”
Still, there are times when Auguste just cannot help himself and tries to do a little too much. Case in point was Saturday’s win over Butler when he corralled a loose ball late in regulation and was called for double dribble. That gave possession back to the Bulldogs with a chance to win it.
Lesson learned – get the ball to a guard.
“I thought there was less time on the clock so I was going to take two dribbles and shoot,” Auguste said. “If I stay focused and play the game as hard as I can, I think I can be great.”
The distance between Notre Dame’s campus and downtown Cleveland did not qualify the Irish under NCAA regulations for a charter flight to the Midwest Region, so the Irish traveling party arrived Tuesday evening by bus.
Sophomore swingman V.J. Beachem wasn’t a big fan of the ride, after his power outlets weren’t functioning properly. Because of that, Beachem’s phone died an hour into the trip.
“It was a rough ride,” Beachem said.
The Irish passed the time watching Horrible Bosses 2 and Nightcrawlers.
“They were pretty good movies,” Beachem said.
Back on campus for two days after getting to their first Sweet 16 since 2003, Notre Dame received its share of pats on the back from classmates. But only to a point.
“There’s still a lot of football fans in South Bend,” Beachem said. “I actually did get a question about the (Irish) quarterback. It’s been pretty much the same as when we won the ACC tournament.”
Twenty-four years have passed since Notre Dame and Wichita State last met on the basketball court, but the Shockers are a known opponent for at least one Irish.
Senior guard Jerian Grant spent about 10 days at the home of his maternal grandparents near Wichita, Kansas, when sitting out the 2014 spring semester because of an “academic misstep.”
“They live about five minutes down the road from the school,” Grant said of his grandparents. “I definitely watched a couple games.”
• Thursday is the first time since 2003 that Notre Dame has played in an NCAA tournament Sweet 16 game. That year, Notre Dame lost 88-71 in a West Regional semifinal in Anaheim, Calif.
• The Irish are 5-10 all-time in regional semifinals. Their last win was in 1979 over Toledo.
• Notre Dame and Wichita State may meet as many times within the next eight-plus months – twice – as the teams have played in history. Regardless of what happens Thursday, both schools are among the eight teams scheduled to participate in the 2015 Orlando (formerly Old Spice) Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., over Thanksgiving weekend.
Notre Dame won the tournament in 2010.
• Thursday’s game is Notre Dame’s first against a Missouri Valley Conference squad since a loss to Indiana State on Nov. 17, 2013. The Irish are 54-14 all-time against Valley schools.
• Notre Dame’s five postseason victories have been decided by a total of 32 points.