Notebook: Zach Auguste a beast of a big for Notre Dame

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

WASHINGTON — A revolving door of three big men each had their run Thursday at Notre Dame power forward Zach Auguste.

But the senior captain just kept coming and competing and delivering at ridiculous levels in what became a memorable afternoon.

Auguste scored 19 points and grabbed a career-high 22 rebounds to help spearhead a spirited second-half comeback that saw No. 4 seed Notre Dame beat No. 5 Duke in overtime, 85-79, in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals at Verizon Center.

“Big bodies, physical, love to battle in the paint,” Auguste said of the scouting report on the Duke bigs. “I took that challenge upon myself.”

Notre Dame (21-10) advances to Friday’s semifinals against top seed North Carolina (26-6).

The Irish weren’t going to be denied in roaring back from a 16-point deficit with just over 11 minutes remaining. And neither was Auguste. It didn’t matter who tried to guard him — starter Marshall Plumlee, freshman reserve Chase Jeter or seldom-used big man Sean Obi. Auguste did serious work against each.

He fouled out Plumlee with 3:12 left in regulation; Jeter followed with 59 seconds left in overtime.

“I wanted to stay aggressive, attack their bigs as much as I could,” Auguste said. “That’s what we did, and it helped.”

Auguste became the first Irish to grab at least 20 rebounds since Luke Harangody corralled 22 in the 2008 NCAA Tournament loss to Washington State. Thursday was Auguste’s19th double-double for points and rebounds — fifth in a row — and 23rd of his career. He also delivered a scary swat block on everybody’s future NBA lottery pick, Brandon Ingram.

“Zach Auguste is playing as good as anybody in the country,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “With the energy and emotion and little bit of crazy (stuff) that he plays with, that is really good, because he scares the other team.

“He even scares his teammates into playing hard. I love his venom and energy.”

Big-shot Beachem

He had pointed all year to being better under the bright lights of March, but when Notre Dame swingman V.J. Beachem got his first chance to show that this year was going to be different, well, he didn’t.

Beachem’s first shot Thursday, a wing 3, barely hit the front of the rim. But he saved his best for later.

Beachem connected on one big 3-pointer after another — three in all — in a 22-6 Irish run that wiped out a 16-point deficit. His second 3 capped a 19-2 burst and bumped the Irish up one with 2:34 left in regulation. His final 3 tied the game at 70 with 1:05 left in regulation.

Beachem added another key 3 to push the Irish up five in overtime.

“It’s a great feeling,” Beachem said. “It’s something I kind of stressed coming from last year, but the guys were able to find me and I knocked down some big shots.”

Beachem was 7-of-12 from the field, 4-of-7 from 3 for 19 points, three shy of his career high. In seven postseason games last March, he scored a combined 14 points.

“This was huge for us,” he said. “But we feel like we’re not done yet.”

A better day

Brey never figured he’d see a day in Verizon Center that was better than the one in 2002, when Notre Dame withstood run after run after run to beat Georgetown, 114-111, in four overtimes. At the time, it was the longest game in Big East history.

That memory, Brey said, is history after what unfolded on Thursday.

“This is better, 'cause there was more on the line,” Brey said. “This will be one of the great memories, no question.”

Brey didn’t think it would end up that way when his team tumbled into the big deficit. As he sat on the bench, he could see a host of family members and friends seated across the way in the stands. The last thing he wanted was for them to witness an Irish wipeout.

“I’m thinking, ‘Oh, geez, don’t let them down,’ ” Brey said. “Let them party at least one more night. They’re going to get to have fun and go to at least one more game.”

D.C. doings

• Notre Dame, which came in leading the nation in fewest turnovers committed, amassed a season-high 18 against a 2-3 zone that Duke played the entire game. The first time the teams played in January, the Irish had only six miscues.

• Since the start of the 2014-15, Notre Dame is 11-1, including eight-straight wins, in games against ACC schools from the state of North Carolina.

• The Irish erased an eight-point halftime deficit to win for the third time this season. Notre Dame also was down eight at intermission at Illinois and at home to Virginia Tech.

• Thursday was Notre Dame’s largest comeback win since wiping out a 20-point deficit to Villanova in a 74-70 victory on Feb. 18, 2012.

• Thursday was the first time Notre Dame has played an overtime league tournament game since falling to Louisville in an extra session in the 2011 Big East Championship semifinal at Madison Square Garden.

• Irish sophomore power forward Bonzie Colson registered his third double-double this season — and second against Duke — with 12 points and 12 rebounds. He has a combined 43 points and 23 rebounds in two games this season against the Blue Devils.

• Notre Dame has a four-game ACC Tournament win streak and is 4-1 in three seasons in the league.

• The Irish improved to 8-4 at Verizon Center during Brey’s tenure.

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Twitter: @tnoieNDI