NCAA Notebook: Zach Auguste on record-setting buckets pace

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

PHILADELPHIA – There were stretches earlier this college basketball season when Notre Dame senior power forward Zach Auguste just couldn’t make a shot.

He went 0-for-2 from the floor in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Virginia. He made only three of a dozen attempts at Duke, two of seven in a second go-round against Boston College, and then three of eight next time out at Syracuse. As the team’s lone true big man who operates so close to the bucket that he often only has to turn and drop it in, Auguste preached that he just needed to slow down, be patient and the shots would fall.

Come NCAA Tournament time, the shots are falling. And falling. And falling. So much so that heading into Friday’s East Region semifinal against Wisconsin, Auguste flirted with select NCAA company. Elite of the elite.

In his seven previous career tournament games, Auguste connected on 43 of 61 shots for a field goal percentage of .705. Former UCLA center Bill Walton, considered in some circles as the greatest college basketball player of all-time, holds the NCAA record for tournament field goal percentage at .686.

“It’s our movement, trusting our movement,” Auguste said of his efficiency. “It spread the floor and allowed me to play in the offense. I’ve got great teammates. They love to pass the ball.

“That makes it easier at the rim.”

A career .568 shooter, Auguste needed nine more field goal attempts to qualify for the NCAA record and possibly break Walton’s record.

“It’s crazy, man,” Auguste said. “It’s humbling. I don’t want to pay too much attention to it right now. I just want to go out there and play, focus and whatever happens, happens.

“I’ll be blessed either way.”

In five tournament games last season, Auguste shot 28-for-40 (70 percent). That included 10-of-14 in the opener against Northeastern, six-of-six in the Midwest Region semifinal game against Wichita State and 10-of-13 against Kentucky.

In two tournament games this season, Auguste missed only two shots. He finished four-of-five for 10 points against Michigan, then went eight of nine in the second-round game against Stephen F. Austin. His miss was the last-second-try-and-win-the-game fall-away that freshman Rex Pflueger tipped home with 1.5 seconds remaining.

Auguste qualified that one Thursday as something other than a shot.

“I was picking up one of my assists,” he insisted.

 Coach in waiting

Former Irish point guard and current assistant coach Martin Ingelsby believes he’s ready to be a head coach. Whether he receives that one call from an athletic director willing to take a chance on someone who’s never been one at the Division I level remains to be decided.

Ingelsby earlier this month interviewed for the job at Drexel, which would have brought him back to his hometown of Philadelphia. But that job was filled Thursday by former Army coach Zach Spiker.

Ingelsby is expected to be in the mix at Delaware, which last week fired Monte Ross. As of Thursday, Delaware had yet to speak with Ingelsby, who admittedly had more important matters on his mind.

“I just want to beat Wisconsin,” he said with a laugh.

Mike Brey coached the Blue Hens for five years (1995-2000) years before taking the Notre Dame job. He also believes his former Irish point guard is ready to become a head coach, and the timing this spring might be right. That timing might lead him to Delaware, a place Brey believes the 38-year-old Ingelsby fits. Perfectly.

“Somebody’s going to get him,” Brey said. “Our players love him. He knows how to connect. He’s the whole package.”

If Ingelsby is indeed in the mix at Delaware, it will be protracted process. The school also has to hire a new athletic director before a basketball coach. Reports have it that the school would like to have both in place by mid-May.

 Tired of talking

Media access earlier this week back on campus and again during Thursday’s open locker room session started to rub sophomore power forward Bonzie Colson the wrong way in one way.

One question in particular kept confusing Colson: Were the Irish happy/surprised to be back in the Sweet 16 for a second-consecutive season?

Uh…not really. This success, despite what outsiders might think, was expected. It wasn’t going to be easy coming off last season’s magical run to the Elite Eight, but that didn’t mean the Irish had blocked this week in March off on their calendars to relax and unwind.

“You hear all the chatter and all that – they’re not any good, they can’t defend,” Colson said. “But being here shows that we’re here no matter what people say. And it motivates us to work harder.”

Buddy system

When Notre Dame beat Michigan in a first-round NCAA game last week in New York, Irish junior swingman V.J. Beachem fired off a text to one of his buddies.

“I was just like, ‘Meet me in Philly, bro,’” Beachem said of the text.

Beachem met up with that friend – Wisconsin junior forward Nigel Hayes – Thursday in a Wells Fargo Center interview holding area.

“We’re pretty good friends,” Beachem said.

Hayes, a native of Toledo, and Beachem, from Fort Wayne, played AAU ball together for the All-Ohio Red All-Stars. That team also included Marc Loving of Ohio State.

Their AAU paths first crossed as AAU opponents in eighth grade, and then again as freshmen in high school.

 Tourney tidbits

• Notre Dame was favored by one point over Wisconsin.

• Irish guard Steve Vasturia was a combined 15-of-57 (26.3 percent) from the floor his last six games. That included 3-of-11 efforts in the first two tournament games.

• Notre Dame headed into Friday’s game having won five NCAA Tournament games the last two years – the same number the Irish won over Brey’s first 11 seasons in South Bend.

• Sunday’s second-round tournament game between Notre Dame and Stephen F. Austin pulled an audience of 8.39 million viewers on CBS. It was the most-watched game of the day, which also included Texas A&M miracle comeback against Northern Iowa and Wisconsin’s last-second win over Xavier.

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Notre Dame power forward Zach Auguste carried a ridiculously high field goal percentage into Friday's game against Wisconsin.AP Photo)