Can V.J. Beachem and Notre Dame work more late-game ACC men's basketball magic?

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

If the first three Atlantic Coast Conference road games are any indication, Notre Dame senior swingman V.J. Beachem knows how the script should go Wednesday at No. 10 Florida State.

Beachem will start and play his usual heavy load of minutes. He may struggle against long and athletic defenders. He’ll have some open looks and the shot will feel sweet and pure leaving his right hand, but might not fall.

Some may wonder as the game gets deeper into the second half why Beachem’s even on the floor. He might not score it well, might not rebound it well, might not play well, but Irish coach Mike Brey will stick with his senior captain.

Then, like a commuter checking on a track assignment at Penn Station in midtown Manhattan, Beachem will look up at the scoreboard late in the game, note all the numbers and realize that it’s time to get going.

Somewhere inside the final four minutes of another close conference contest, Beachem will do something to swing it the Irish way.

“It’s just something that all of us take pride in,” Beachem said of delivering late. “I tell myself in the heat of the moments, try to make a play here to help your team win a game. Get a stop, a deflection. It’s something I’ve been trying to be conscious of lately.”

He has since league play started on New Year’s Eve. In the closing seconds of regulation at Pittsburgh, on a day he finished 3-of-10 from the floor, 0-of-5 from 3 and scored six points, Beachem closed out hard from his wing spot in the 2-3 zone to swat a potential Chris Jones game-winning 3-pointer from the corner. In overtime, Beachem secured a steal off an errant inbound pass following Steve Vasturia’s game-winning 3.

Beachem again delivered on the road last week when the Irish had to have it.

With just over a minute remaining in a tie game at Miami (Fla.), Beachem shook another shooting struggle – 4-of-11 from the field, 1-of-5 from 3 – for a degree-of-difficulty reverse layup with his left hand. That gave the Irish the lead in a game they’d win by five. Two days later at Virginia Tech with the Irish up by one with 47.6 seconds left, Beachem worked free along the right baseline and tossed in a floater that bounced four times before falling. He had another tough go – 2-of-8 from the floor, 0-for-4 from 3 for four points – but stayed steady when steady was needed.

That’s one reason why Beachem is averaging a team-high 34.8 minutes in the first five conference contests. He’s a senior. He’s a captain. He’s a leader. He’s been there and knows how to deliver. He then often does, despite what his stat line might say.

“That’s why you have him on the floor, especially at crunch time,” Brey said. “He has a knack for doing it. Even though maybe the previous 38 minutes weren’t beautiful, you kind of want him back in there to finish.”

Beachem insisted after the Pittsburgh game that he “wasn’t tripping” about his game. His numbers for points, rebounds and shooting percentages all have dipped in ACC play from 13.9 ppg., 3.9 rpg., 42.2 field goal percentage, 46.4 3-point field goal percentage in non-league play to 9.4, 2.6, 39.1 and 29.2 in league play, yet he refuses to dwell on what’s not working.

“It happens some nights (and) it’s been happening a lot to me this year,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll find it sooner than later.”

Beachem usually finds it inside the final four minutes. That's when he becomes even more aware of time and score and the need to make something happen. His game usually follows.

“That’s something I think about all the time,” he said. “I like to call it winning time. That’s when games are really won or lost. It’s something I tell the guys, something that clicks in my head – it’s winning time, let me try to make a play to help us win this game.”

Notre Dame (16-2; 5-0 ACC) enters Wednesday’s game having already done way more than just survive its current three-game road swing, which ends in Tallahassee. Finishing this segment 2-1 would be good. But going 3-0 would be great.

There’s a lot of basketball buzz around Notre Dame. About what this current run might mean long-term. About the Irish possibly in position to chase down a regular-season ACC championship. The Irish have worked this week to avoid all the noise. Win or lose Wednesday, two thirds of the league schedule remains. It’s one reason why Brey wore an Under Armour pullover with the words “humble” and “hungry” on the right bicep to his Monday afternoon teleconference. It’s also why he texted each Irish player prior to practice.

Let’s just have a great practice Monday, Brey texted his team. Then they could shoot for another Tuesday. Then get on a plane for Florida and embrace another big opportunity.

Doing it in another close conference game – another one on the road – would really be nice. For Beachem, there’s no better feeling. The crowd gets quiet. The other team gets a certain foggy look in their eyes. Before anyone knows it, a game that was there for the taking gets taken by Notre Dame.

“That’s when we feel like we’re right at home,” Beachem said. “We love it. This is exactly where we want to be.”

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

@tnoieNDI

WHO: No. 15 Notre Dame (16-2; 5-0 ACC) vs. No. 10 Florida State (16-2; 4-1).

WHERE: Donald J. Tucker Center (13,800), Tallahassee, Fla.

WHEN: Wednesday at 7 p.m.

TV: RSN (Comcast Channel 101).

RADIO: WSBT (960 AM, 96.1 FM).

INTERNET: ACC Network Extra at WatchESPN.com.

ONLINE: Follow every Notre Dame game with live updates from Tribune beat writer Tom Noie at twitter.com@tnoieNDI.

NOTING: Dwayne Bacon scored 18 points and Jonathan Isaac added 17 points and 12 rebounds in a 96-83 loss Saturday at No. 9 North Carolina. The Seminoles were out-rebounded 56-34 and committed 15 turnovers. … This is the fifth game of six straight against ranked teams for Florida State, which is 3-1 in the stretch. … Prior to Saturday’s loss at North Carolina, Florida State had won 12 straight. Its lone non-conference loss was to Temple. … Two starters return off last year’s team that finished 20-14, 8-10 and tied for 11th in the ACC. … The Seminoles were picked this preseason to finish eighth in the ACC, one spot behind Notre Dame. They started the season unranked and have been as high as ninth (last week’s Associated Press poll). …. Florida State has won 15 straight home games. … Florida State is one of four repeat league opponents for Notre Dame. The teams meet Feb. 11 in South Bend. … The Seminoles rank second in the ACC in scoring offense (86.5) and 10th in scoring defense (70.4). They lead the league and are seventh in the nation in field goal percentage (50.5), fourth in the league in field goal percentage defense (39.3). … Florida State leads the all-time series 3-1, including 2-0 in Tallahassee. … Irish power forward Bonzie Colson leads the ACC in rebounds (10.9) and double-doubles (11). … Guards Matt Farrell (36.8) and Steve Vasturia (36.6) rank third and fourth for minutes played in ACC games. … Notre Dame is 1-2 against ranked teams with a win over No. 12 Louisville and losses to No. 1 Villanova and No. 21 Purdue. … The Irish have won seven in a row since the Dec. 17 loss to the Boilermakers.

QUOTING: “We’re greedy. We want to go and get another road win. That feeling of going in other teams’ buildings and getting wins is really a priceless feeling.”

• Notre Dame senior swingman V.J. Beachem.