Zach Auguste answers challenge in ND win over Stony Brook

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Two days before getting back to basketball business against a player who had the potential to present a host problems, Notre Dame senior power forward Zach Auguste insisted he knew absolutely nothing about the guy he would guard.

Nor did he really care.

Having gone against some of the nation’s top big men last season, when he more than held his own, Auguste was confident that he could again deliver Tuesday. Even dominate.

Then he did.

Auguste scored a season-high 23 points with 11 rebounds, for his sixth double-double of the year and 11th of his career, as Notre Dame busted open a close contest with a determined second-half burst to beat Stony Brook, 86-61.

“I just wanted to go out there and be aggressive,” Auguste said. “We played a great team game.”

All five Irish starters scored double figures.

Stony Brook power forward Jameel Warney had arrived averaging 18.2 points and 13.2 rebounds and seemed poised to register another double-double. He had been unstoppable the first month of the season. But he had no answer on either end for Auguste.

Warney finished with a relatively quiet 16 points and eight rebounds.

On Sunday, Auguste stressed that having played last season, and played really well, against two of the first three picks in the NBA draft (Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor), he would be ready for anything Warney had for him.

Auguste then scored around the rim, stepped outside and hit fade jumpers, with Warney’s big right mitt in his face, and rebounded as if his playing time depended on it for much of the night.

“Me going up against them, I just had to go out there and play, man, just be aggressive,” Auguste said. “Don’t let anyone try to impose their will on you.

“I really wanted to go out there and dominate.”

Warney did break loose for a spell in the second half, which forced Irish coach Mike Brey to switch Auguste’s defensive assignment with Bonzie Colson. But other than that, Auguste was really good. He finished with his night with a flying, right-handed dunk with just over two minutes to play. That put the Irish up 24. They would lead by as many as 25.

“What Zach Auguste gave us was great,” Brey said.

Notre Dame (6-2) trailed only once all night — 1-0.

While Auguste dominated around the rim, junior guard Demetrius Jackson again dominated across the entire floor. Jackson finished with 19 points and a career-high 10 assists for his first career double-double. When the Irish needed to run good offense in the second half, Jackson made sure they did.

Notre Dame shot 59.3 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3 the final 20 minutes.

“Demetrius Jackson looks like he’s running the building like Jerian Grant used to run the building,” Brey said. “He’s starting to run the building.”

The Irish were up eight at the halftime break, but allowed the Seawolves to slowly chip and chip and chip away at the lead the first four-plus minutes. Notre Dame’s defense, which had been so sound the first 20 minutes, showed early signs of leakage. The Seawolves drove it with authority, rebounded missed shots for point-blank put-backs and seemed to build in confidence.

Stony Brook (4-3) got within four, before the Irish offense of old reappeared.

As much as this team needs to be better defensively, they can be really good on offense. Brey seemed determined to get the group into a flow, calling set after set after set to try and get something smooth flowing.

It worked. It flowed. Soon, a game that seemed destined to become one-possession saw the Irish lead by 10, then 15, then 20, then 25.

Everything was rolling.

“It’s just a fun way to play,” Jackson said. “That’s just how we play.”

V.J. Beachem connected on a pair of 3s to bump the Irish back up double digits before a Colson backcut bucket offset a Stony Brook score. Not long after laboring to put the ball in the basket, the Irish were making it look easy.

The lead went to 12 on a Steve Vasturia score, then jumped to a then-game-high 14 (58-44) off a Jackson steal and slam. Notre Dame was just getting started. Beachem capped a 9-0 Irish run with a layup, and just like that, the Irish were up 20 points (66-46) following a 20-4 burst.

The Irish run topped out at 25-4, including 13 unanswered before a Warney dunk with just over six minutes remaining.

By that time, this one was effectively over.

The Irish were really good for large chunks of the opening 20 minutes. They shot 51.5 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from 3 and were able to overcome a stretch of four-plus minutes without a field goal late in the half to take a 40-32 lead to the locker room.

An effective Auguste was a big reason. He went for 11 points and five rebounds in the first half. He was the best big man on the floor and was a main reason why the Irish scored 22 of their 40 first-half points in the paint.

Stony Brook came to town a confident bunch. The Seawolves are picked to win their league — America East — for the second-straight season and returned all five starters off last year’s team that came within 1.6 seconds of getting to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

The Seawolves are 0-7 all time against the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Notre Dame has won 40 of its 42 non-conference December home games since 2006-07. Tuesday was the first time the Irish were back in their own gym in 17 days. It was their first game action in six days following last week’s win at Illinois.

After that one, Notre Dame used its free weekend to get into a training-camp mentality that saw the Irish even practice twice a day in attempt to get some much-needed reps on both ends of the floor.

“What a great night for us,” Brey said. “What a great last week for this team as we’re trying to figure ourselves out.”

STONY BROOK (4-3): Rayshuan McGrew 6-10 0-2 12, Jameel Warney 7-17 2-3 16, Ahmad Walker 2-5 1-2 5, Carson Puriefoy 6-13 2-2 17, Bryan Sekunda 2-3 0-0 6, DeShaun Thrower 1-5 0-0 2, Kameron Mitchell 0-0 0-0 0, Tyrell Sturdivant 1-3 0-0 2, Roland Nyama 0-1 1-2 1, Jakub Petras 0-1 0-0 0, Lucas Woodhouse 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 25-62 6-11 61.

NOTRE DAME (6-2): V.J. Beachem 5-13 0-1 14, Zach Auguste 9-13 5-8 23, Bonzie Colson 4-8 2-2 10, Demetrius Jackson 7-10 4-4 19, Steve Vasturia 4-6 1-2 10, Rex Pflueger 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Torres 2-3 0-0 4, Matt Ryan 1-2 0-0 3, Matt Farrell 1-5 0-0 3, Austin Burgett 0-0 0-0 0, Martinas Geben 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-60 12-17 86.

Halftime_Notre Dame 40-32. 3-Point Goals_Stony Brook 5-18 (Puriefoy 3-8, Sekunda 2-3, Walker 0-1, Thrower 0-2, Woodhouse 0-4), Notre Dame 8-17 (Beachem 4-8, Ryan 1-2, Jackson 1-2, Vasturia 1-2, Farrell 1-3). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Stony Brook 24 (Warney 8), Notre Dame 43 (Auguste 11). Assists_Stony Brook 11 (Walker 7), Notre Dame 19 (Jackson 10). Total Fouls_Stony Brook 16, Notre Dame 13. A_7,537.

Notre Dame's Zach Auguste (30) shoots the ball over Stony Brook's Jameel Warney (20) during the first half of ND's victory at Purcell Pavilion on Tuesday night. (SBT Photo/ BECKY MALEWITZ)