Coiffed and confident, Zach Auguste steers Notre Dame past UMass-Lowell

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Seldom one to let the status quo slide anywhere near stale, Notre Dame senior captain Zach Auguste figured it was time to change it up.

So on the eve of Saturday’s matinee against Massachusetts-Lowell, the team’s resident barber/stylist — last year, he shaved stylish Zs into the sides of his head — decided it was time for a little treatment. Auguste cropped his hair a little shorter on the sides and added a wide streak of auburn/brown tint to the top of his head of black hair. Though the look was different, Auguste delivered an effort that is slowly becoming standard.

Working against an opponent that was short on size, the 6-foot-10 Auguste enjoyed a big day with 19 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes as No. 18 Notre Dame moved to 3-0 with an 83-57 victory at Purcell Pavilion.

Had to have been the ‘do, right?

“I just needed something new,’” Auguste said. “I like to do a lot of different things with my hair and just decided to switch it up.”

Auguste, who estimated that the Lowell campus is about 15 minutes from his home in Marlborough, did so at the urging of fellow Massachusetts native Bonzie Colson, who was active and aggressive and energetic early en route to tying his career high of nine rebounds to go with 11 points.

“The hair looks nice,” Colson said. “He wants me to get that but I don’t know if I’m there to get that yet. I might do it. You never know.”

What is becoming known is Auguste’s ability to expand his game that for too long meant just putting his head down and bulling his way to the basket. Working in the low post his first three seasons saw Auguste go almost exclusively — OK, exclusively — with his right hand.

On Saturday, he wasn’t shy about using his left to flip a layup off the rim here or finish a spin move from in close there. Auguste knows the scouting report stresses that he likes to turn over his left shoulder and go with his right. But more work in the gym this summer and during off days this season will force teams to consider the alternative.

“I’m very confident in my left hand,” Auguste said. “I feel like I have good touch with my left hand, almost as good as my right. It’s something for guys on the opposite team to guard.”

Notre Dame never trailed and led by as many as 31 points in going for at least 83 for a third straight game. Four Irish starters scored double figures in a game that needed only 94 minutes to complete.

It was Auguste’s second double-double in three games to start his final season and the seventh of his career. He did it against a team that carried nobody taller than 6-8 on its roster.

“A couple of the guys mentioned to me that I had to dominate inside,” Auguste said. “I had to impose my will. They didn’t have size and I had to take advantage of that.

“I think I did.”

Auguste was really good from the start, and the other four starters seemed to follow that lead. Notre Dame had labored the previous two games to get flowing on both ends. That wasn’t much of a problem Saturday. The home team led by as many as eight less than four minutes in, were up by 10 less than eight minutes in and jumped up by 18 when Demetrius Jackson delivered the second of consecutive 3-pointers.

“Just coming out focused, locked in and attention to detail,” Jackson said of the solid start. “We were sharp.”

Matt Harris led Massachusetts-Lowell (1-2) with 16 points.

“We knew that our margin was thin going into the game,” River Hawks coach Pat Duquette said. “We were going to have to shoot the ball well, not turn the ball over and be really efficient in a lot of categories to overcome our lack of height and athleticism.”

Notre Dame held UMass-Lowell to 37.9 shooting, forced 15 turnovers and had 12 steals.

Once the game got lopsided early, Irish coach Mike Brey started thinking about the lineup combinations he might tinker with at next week’s AdvoCare Invitational in Central Florida. Brey dipped deep into his rotation – six reserves saw action before intermission – but getting guys more time early in what looked to be a one-sided contest was near-costly.

More guys in the rotation didn’t translate into more points and more highlight plays. An 18-point lead built by the starters the first 13-plus minutes evaporated to nine in less than 90 seconds after the River Hawks connected on three consecutive 3-pointers.

Boom.

Boom.

Boom.

Out went the reserves. In came the starters, who closed the first 20 minutes with an 8-2 run.

The sequence served as a halftime teaching moment for the Irish on the back end of the rotation, who seemed asleep at the switch when given a chance.

“They’ve been better in practice,” Brey said of his reserves. “I thought some of our guys weren’t as attentive to detail. When you get game minutes in November, that’s your time to help me get confident in you. I thought they were a little sloppy.”

As has been their trademark, the Irish were strong to start the second half. They scored seven unanswered to balloon the lead over 20. This time, when the Irish put it on cruise control and subbed often the rest of the way, everything remained easy and efficient.

Auguste erupted for 15 points and five rebounds in 14 minutes in the first half.

“Been really pleased with him,” Brey said. “He’s playing the way he’s practiced – very consistent. Not trying to do too much. Not playing too fast. He’s finishing plays.

“He’s confident.”

MASS.-LOWELL (1-2): Keith Hayes II 0-3 0-0 0, Ryan Jones 1-5 0-0 3, Jahad Thomas 3-7 1-2 7, Josh Gantz 3-6 0-0 7, Matt Harris 6-12 0-0 16, Jordan Shea 0-0 0-0 0, Dontavious Smith 2-6 2-4 6, Isaac White 1-5 0-0 3, Dj Mlachnik 2-4 0-0 6, Logan Primerano 0-1 0-0 0, Tyler Livingston 4-8 0-0 9, Mark Cornelius 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-58 3-6 57.

NOTRE DAME (3-0): V.J. Beachem 3-9 0-2 7, Zach Auguste 7-11 5-6 19, Bonzie Colson 4-6 2-2 11, Demetrius Jackson 6-11 0-1 15, Steeve Vasturia 4-8 1-2 12, Rex Pflueger 2-2 0-0 6, Austin Torres 0-1 0-0 0, Matt Ryan 2-6 0-0 6, Matt Farrell 0-2 0-0 0, Austin Burgett 1-2 2-2 5, Matt Gregory 0-2 0-0 0, Martinas Geben 0-2 2-2 2. Totals 29-62 12-17 83.

Halftime-Notre Dame 40-26. 3-Point Goals-Mass.-Lowell 10-25 (Harris 4-7, Mlachnik 2-4, Gantz 1-2, Jones 1-2, Livingston 1-4, White 1-4, Hayes II 0-1, Thomas 0-1), Notre Dame 13-29 (Vasturia 3-5, Jackson 3-6, Pflueger 2-2, Ryan 2-6, Burgett 1-2, Colson 1-2, Beachem 1-3, Gregory 0-1, Farrell 0-2). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Mass.-Lowell 31 (Smith 8), Notre Dame 43 (Auguste 10). Assists-Mass.-Lowell 13 (Cornelius, White 3), Notre Dame 14 (Jackson 5). Total Fouls-Mass.-Lowell 17, Notre Dame 13. A-8,888.

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

@tnoieNDI

Notre Dame forward Zach Auguste, left, battles for a loose ball with U Mass Lowell guard Ryan Jones during the first half of Saturday's game.AP Photo/JOEY RAYMOND