No Demetrius Jackson, no problem for Notre Dame men

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Shoes off to the side and his legs stretched out across a table in front of him, Notre Dame sophomore power forward Bonzie Colson kicked back in the team lounge early Saturday afternoon and relaxed for a bit.

Atlantic Coast Conference games aren’t supposed to be this easy this time of year, but Notre Dame made yet another contest against Boston College look like a breeze.

Again working as the energy/enthusiasm/point producer off the bench, Colson scored 16 points with seven rebounds and three assists as the Irish overcame the loss of a key guy – maybe THE key guy – with a 76-49 victory in a game they never trailed and led by as many as 30.

Notre Dame beat Boston College by 28 points, a school record for an ACC game, earlier this month.

Colson’s come off the bench the last three games to go for 31 points (a career high), 15 and now 16. Super sub, indeed.

“Super sub? What is that?” he joked. “I’m just trying to stay within myself and doing what the coaches want me to do. I’m learning to be sharp on the offensive and defensive ends and having more confidence and that’s helping me out a lot.”

Notre Dame sailed through Saturday without junior point guard Demetrius Jackson, who hobbled to the locker room with a whole lot of help not even three minutes in with a pulled right hamstring. The captain Jackson spent a chunk of the day on the bench with a bag of ice strapped to the back of his leg. His status is uncertain heading into Thursday’s game at Syracuse.

“Those are tricky,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We’ll go day-to-day with him.”

The Irish really didn’t need Jackson in a contest that seldom was close. That’s good. Had it been a tougher test, and there are plenty of those closing quickly on the schedule, Jackson likely also would have stayed on the sideline.

“I’m really proud of how we really didn’t let it be a distraction at all,” Brey said. “You’re not going to put him back in and reinjure it. We methodically got a really good league win.”

The last Irish player to hurt a hamstring in a conference contest – swingman Carleton Scott early in 2011 – eventually missed four games.

Winners of four conference games in a row, including the last three at home, Notre Dame improves to 14-5, 5-2. The Irish did so by simply shrugging off Jackson’s injury to keep doing what they do, playing how they play. Seeing their engine need help to get to the locker room in the opening moments was a scary sight, one that also quieted the crowd. But the Irish maintained their focus.

Jackson or no Jackson, the Irish just had to keep working. Keep playing.

Jackson demanded it. He still encouraged his teammates during timeout huddles, still had plenty to say at halftime and spent the second-half warm-up under the Irish basket offering his encouragement.

“We used that as motivation,” Colson said. “We still felt his presence even though he wasn’t out there.”

Jackson departed with the scored tied at 2. Just over four minutes later, Notre Dame had ripped off a dozen unanswered points, including five from Colson after his quicker than usual call to come off the bench.

Not allowing Jackson’s injury to become an issue was easy for the Irish. Coming off the upset of Duke the previous Saturday, Brey had his team run through an all-out, 90-minute scrimmage two days before the Wednesday win over Virginia Tech. They did this all then with Jackson on the sideline. He had logged serious minutes – 38 or more – in each of the first six conference games.

With Jackson out, fellow junior Steve Vasturia assumed the main ball handling/initiator duties. Vasturia finished with 16 points, four assists, four rebounds and two steals in 36 minutes.

“I’ve played a lot of point guard in high school and stuff and am pretty confident in my ability to do that,” Vasturia said. “Somebody goes down, you can’t stop everything. You’ve got to go out there and win a game.”

The Irish offense kept right on rolling that Monday during the scrimmage, and kept right on rolling Saturday.

Losers of six straight, Boston College falls to 7-12, 0-6. Eli Carter led the Eagles with 13 points, but finished 5-of-13 from the floor. Boston College hasn’t won since Dec. 30.

Brey was more animated than usual without Jackson's voice and energy and defensive ball pressure. He demanded they be better on the defensive end, and they were. Notre Dame held Boston College to 28.6 percent from the field for the game, and 20 points in the second half. It was a season low for points allowed by the Irish.

“We did a pretty good job playing defense,” Vasturia said. “It’s a process with that, too. We’re getting better and showed that today.”

Boston College took 30 shots and made only six over the final 20 minutes.

“Of the 30 shots I would sign up for all 30 shots again,” said Eagles coach Jim Christian. “We just couldn’t make a shot, couldn’t make a layup. It’s tough to win, especially against a really good offensive team like them.”

Colson, whose father once served as an assistant to former coach Al Skinner on the Boston College staff, really, really, really likes playing against the Eagles. Saturday was the fourth time in Colson’s two-year career he has faced them. They’ve all been Irish wins. After going for 16 points on eight-of-nine from the floor 16 days earlier in Chestnut Hill, Colson made six of his 11 shots Saturday.

Colson’s averaged 12.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in his four games against the Eagles. Saturday marked the third-straight game that Colson has scored 16. This was the last one scheduled – at least in the regular season – between the teams.

“Either home or away, BC has been a huge part of my life,” Colson said. “I like playing against BC.”

BOSTON COLLEGE (7-12): Garland Owens 0-6 0-0 0, A.J. Turner 1-5 4-4 7, Dennis Clifford 1-7 1-2 3, Jerome Robinson 2-11 1-4 5, Eli Carter 5-13 3-4 16, Darryl Hicks 3-9 0-0 7, Idy Diallo 1-1 0-0 2, Ervins Meznieks 0-1 0-0 0, Matt Milon 1-1 0-0 3, Sammy Barnes-Thompkins 2-2 0-0 6. Totals 16-56 9-14 49.

NOTRE DAME (14-5): V.J. Beachem 6-12 2-2 14, Matt Ryan 2-4 0-0 6, Zach Auguste 2-7 6-7 10, Demetrius Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Steve Vasturia 3-9 9-10 16, Rex Pflueger 3-3 4-4 11, Austin Torres 0-0 0-0 0, Matt Farrell 1-1 0-0 3, Chad Holtz 0-0 0-0 0, A.J. Burgett 0-0 0-0 0, Matt Gregory 0-0 0-0 0, Martinas Geben 0-1 0-0 0, Bonzie Colson 6-11 4-4 16. Totals 23-48 25-27 76.

Halftime--Notre Dame 34-29. 3-Point Goals--Boston College 8-18 (Carter 3-5, Barnes-Thompkins 2-2, Milon 1-1, Turner 1-2, Hicks 1-3, Owens 0-1, Meznieks 0-1, Robinson 0-3), Notre Dame 5-14 (Ryan 2-4, Farrell 1-1, Pflueger 1-1, Vasturia 1-4, Beachem 0-4). Fouled Out--Diallo. Rebounds--Boston College 33 (Clifford, Turner 7), Notre Dame 36 (Auguste 10). Assists--Boston College 7 (Hicks 2), Notre Dame 11 (Vasturia 4). Total Fouls--Boston College 19, Notre Dame 15. A--9,149.

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Notre Dame guard Demetrius Jackson hurts his right hamstring early in Saturday's win over Boston College.Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN