Heart, effort fuel Bonzie Colson's performance for Notre Dame

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Moments are made with energy and bravado.

Bonzie Colson had enough of both in the second half to carry Notre Dame’s basketball team to a stunning upset of No. 2 North Carolina, 80-76, Saturday night.

It didn’t happen by accident.

Ineffective with six points and three rebounds as the Irish fell behind by nine at halftime, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound sophomore forward got an earful from a teammate at intermission.

“Demetrius (Jackson) got into him at halftime,” said senior forward Zach Auguste. “He said, ‘We don’t want to hear you talking anymore, just go out there and do it. Bring that dog. Bring that beast out there.’”

“I told Bonzie to bring his edge; bring his fire,” said Jackson. “He’s at his best when he’s pounding his chest, being that junkyard dog working inside. That’s what he did.

“He gives such great heart and effort.”

That heart and effort was as impressive as anything Colson did in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, but how he did it made it even more special. Colson collected four offensive boards in the second half, most of them fueled by pure want-to.

He was undersized compared to Carolina’s front line of Brice Johnson (6-10, 230) and Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260). But Colson refused to back down.

“It was a war,” was the only way Colson could explain the pounding.

It was no understatement.

Thirty minutes after the sizzle of the final horn and court-storming antics of the Leprechaun Legion, Colson still wasn’t able to turn off the juice. His legs twitched as he gave several interviews. His hands were in constant motion. He talked a mile a minute.

Packing the junkyard dog away isn’t as easy as calling him out.

“My teammates talked to me: ‘You have to bring that juice; you have to bring that edge,’” Colson said. “I knew I had to do that.”

When conventional logic says going toe-to-toe with a bunch of bigger dudes isn’t going to end well, there has to be another way to get the job done. Colson improvised, using speed and grit, to gain an advantage.

Basketball coaches like to talk about “50-50 balls.” When Colson set his mind to it, the odds always seemed to be in his favor.

“You can’t give up on a play,” Colson said. “When you’re crashing rebounds, you can see where the ball is going to land. You’ve gotta get the loose balls. You’ve gotta get the tips on the ground. You’ve gotta do all the little things that help you.”

Little things add up to big things, like they did Saturday night. A physical 28 minutes was spent, on the offensive end, driving to the basket a good chunk of the time. That’s how five free throws, all of which he made, happened.

Colson didn’t let a couple double-digit deficits discourage the approach he had toward the way he went about his business.

“We needed this win,” Colson said. “We wanted this win more than anything. We wanted it for Notre Dame; for the fans (9,149 loud ones); for ourselves.”

It was a sweet mouthwash for the sour taste that came from an ugly loss at Miami a few days ago.

“We’ve been in situations where we’re in bounce-back mode,” Colson said. “We know what it takes. That game’s in the past. We learned; we learned what we have to do to execute.”

He learned what it takes to make a moment.

Heart and effort from a junkyard dog.

Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson (35) reacts to a strong play for his Irish teammates during ND's 80-76 upset of No. 2 North Carolina, Saturday night at Purcell Pavilion. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)