Lesar: No stars, no problem for Notre Dame men's basketball?

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – Seven victories into the season, who are these guys?

Still too soon for the Notre Dame men’s basketball team to have forged an identity.

But … It’s coming. Slow but sure, the Irish are continuing to develop.

Tuesday night’s 92-78 victory over Iowa, which seems to have been designated as Notre Dame’s Big Ten equivalent, was carved more out of function than flash.

Ooooohhh- and aaaaahhh-inspiring athleticism won’t be part of the game plan, like it was with Demetrius Jackson, Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton or Zach Auguste.

What the Irish lack in star power — at least for now — they make up with a scrappy, get-out-of-my-way-I’m-going-to-get-it-done approach to the game.

It was a formula that has been proven.

Against Iowa. And Northwestern. And Colorado. And the four cupcakes that came to Purcell Pavilion to pick up a check and put the Irish one win closer to 20.

It won’t be until Dec. 17, two weeks before the start of the Atlantic Coast Conference portion of their schedule — when games really count — that the Irish will have a true picture of who they are and how prepared they will be for the meaningful experiences.

By then, they will have played defending national champion Villanova, as well as Purdue. Maybe even next week’s once upon a blowout with Fort Wayne (formerly IPFW) will test the Irish mettle.

Just ask Indiana.

Hardworking, unselfish guys can be great for a program, but there’s something to be said for star power. This Notre Dame team seems to be filled with a bunch of Tontos. The Irish are still looking for that Lone Ranger. Too many Robins … No Batman. Too many Pippens … No Jordan.

At least, that’s now. Steve Vasturia has a chance to emerge. So does V.J. Beachem, who seemed to be on that track when last year’s run ended — again — in the Elite Eight. Bonzie Colson? Nah, his picture is next to the definition of “Lunch Pail Guy.”

Bonzie air-balled his first shot of the night, a 3-pointer, against Iowa, but hardly was flustered. Instead, he just turned his focus inside and made his impact down low. By halftime, he was on the cusp of a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. He finished with 24 and 17.

Best thing about Colson, he plays with an attitude the others don’t embrace — even if he does draw a technical foul (which he did against Iowa) every now and then. Of course, when he picks up his third foul less than 5 minutes into the second half, it could cause a problem.

Notre Dame allowed a 15-point first-half lead to erode to two by intermission. Two minutes into the second half, with Irish big man Martin Geben picking up his third foul (forcing the Irish to go small), the Hawkeyes took the lead back.

From there, it was a see-saw. Until …

Matt Farrell, an Irish guard who doesn’t seem to measure up to the 6-foot-1 he’s listed at, put his foot on the gas to jump-start the victory. Two 3-pointers and a nice feed to Geben for an easy bucket stretched the lead to eight.

Vasturia showed a burst of determination, going to the rack twice — once for a three-point play and again for an uncontested bucket.

Little by little the energy was kicked up a notch. Couple offensive rebounds by Geben. A block down low by Geben, before he picked up his fourth foul with 10 minutes to play.

Then, at the 9:47 mark, Beachem stepped up with a 3-pointer for a nine-point lead. Again, a 3 at 7:59. A jumper from the elbow at 7:08. A put-back at 5:56, and the Irish are up by 14. Another 3 at 5:05.

And … So it goes.

Where’s Beachem been all night? Stars don’t disappear, then suddenly heat up.

They’re just a bunch of guys who get the job done. For now, at least.

The Irish will need a star by the time the games start counting for real.

Or, will they?

Notre Dame’s V.J. Beachem (3) tries to shoot past Iowa’s Cordell Pemsl (35) during the Iowa at Notre Dame men’s basketball game at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. (Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA)