Notre Dame F Zach Auguste's play speaks volumes in win

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Zach Auguste’s do-it-all communicator rang through the arena, even louder than the sound of his palm thumping against leather. It’s a single word — three letters, depending on how you spell it — a verbal affirmation of just about anything Auguste wants.

He yells it when he dunks.

He yells it when he rebounds.

He yells it when he shoots.

He yells it when he blocks.

He yells it instinctively, with gusto, an exclamation point on the end of another electric play.

It’s no surprise, then, that the 6-foot-10 senior yelled it midway through the second half of Notre Dame’s 86-61 victory over Stony Brook on Tuesday, after swatting Seawolf guard Carson Puriefoy’s feeble excuse for a layup violently into the seats.

“Aye!” he roared, stomping his feet emphatically on the hardwood.

Aye, indeed.

THUNDERBLOCK! Z.A. (@ZachEliAuguste) tallies his 2nd block of the night (18pts, 9rebs). ND 66 | SB 46 2H | ESPNU

— Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) December 9, 2015

Auguste finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, racking up his third consecutive double-double and sixth in eight games, while limiting Stony Brook forward Jameel Warney to 16 points and eight boards on 7 for 17 shooting.

Early in his senior season, Auguste’s play has spoken nearly as loudly as his ayes.

“I thought what Zach Auguste gave us was great, guarding the big guy and what he did on the other end,” head coach Mike Brey said.

What he did, specifically, was present a more diverse offensive repertoire than he has in previous seasons. Auguste knocked down mid-range jumpers. He took his defender off the dribble. He spinned in shots with his left hand and hit a fadeaway jumper with a hand in his grill.

He evolved offensively, and on Tuesday, that evolution was on display.

“I’m very confident. That’s something I worked on all summer,” Auguste said of his improving jumper. “That’s something I’m currently working on. But it has to do with the team.

“They believe in me just as much as I believe in them, and they trust me to make smart plays. When we focus and play five-man basketball, it’s hard for people to guard us.”

It was also hard on Tuesday for the guy Auguste was tasked with guarding. Three days earlier, Warney racked up 26 points and 15 rebounds in an impressive victory over Princeton.

This time? Not so much.

“His stat line, I actually looked it up on ESPN,” Auguste said with a grin. “I was like, ‘OK, I have to respect him.’ He filled it up pretty well. So I went in on my own. I watched some film. I followed his tendencies.

“He liked to drive baseline a lot. He was aggressive, so me just taking away that baseline and making him take tough shots was something I wanted to go in and do. It was a challenge that I was accepting and ready for.”

Added Brey: “I thought he was really looking forward to the match up the last two days. It’s neat, because there’s a buzz about this kid (Warney), and Zach’s a little bit like, ‘Wait a minute now, I’ve played against some pretty good big guys already.’ I thought in the first half he never really let him get comfortable.”

Meanwhile, Auguste was comfortable — and vocal.

As for the last bit, that’s how he’s always been.

“That’s just me. I play with a little swagger,” Auguste said of the unstoppable ‘ayes.’ “I’m kind of a funny and nice guy off the court, but on the court I want to dominate. I want to impose my will on all the bigs.

“I want to be considered one of the best bigs in the country, so that’s just how I play.”

Notre Dame's Zach Auguste (30) puts up a shot over Stony Brook's Jameel Warney (20), Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in South Bend. SBT Photo/ BECKY MALEWITZ