Big night for V.J. Beachem; big win for No. 19 Notre Dame
SOUTH BEND – No way were they going to let the seniors down on this night – their night.
V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia had come too far and done too much for the No. 19 Notre Dame men’s basketball program to walk off the home court for the final time anything but winners Wednesday against Boston College.
So when the Irish were down seven in the first half, the feeling was one of poise instead of pressure. When the Eagles were tough to shake in the second, the Irish stayed confident that it would come together.
Beachem scored 22 points and Bonzie Colson added his league-leading 18th double double with 18 points and 11 rebounds as Note Dame ran its Atlantic Coast Conference win streak to a school-record six with an 82-66 victory.
“To get a win with my brothers on my last time on this court was great,” Beachem said. “Just a great effort.”
Vasturia added 10 points, five rebounds and three assists in 35 minutes. Fittingly, the seniors left together to a standing ovation at the 1:34 mark.
“It’s a bummer, last game here,” Vasturia said. “But now we can focus on one more game.”
Senior walk-on Patrick Mazza capped the night with his first career basket — a two-handed dunk that sent the bench and the building into a frenzy.
“That sure is a Senior Night to remember,” said coach Mike Brey. “We couldn’t have scripted it any better.”
Part of how and why this program works is the responsibility the younger guys feel to make sure the older guys max out their final nights, their Senior Nights. It happened the previous two years. It happened again Wednesday.
“They deserve better,” guard Matt Farrell said of the seniors. “The underclassmen made sure (a loss) wasn’t going to happen.”
In second place in the ACC, Notre Dame hasn’t lost in 25 days and counting and improved to 23-7, 12-5 in the league.
“It’s a great feeling to be rolling like this heading into March,” Beachem said.
“We’ve put ourselves in good position,” Vasturia said. “That’s all you can ask for. We’ve taken care of business so far.”
Losers of 13 straight, Boston College fell to 9-21, 2-15.
Freshman guard Ky Bowman led the Eagles with 19 points.
The win was No. 79 for the pair over the last three seasons and No. 93 of their Irish careers.
It’s the longest league win streak in Notre Dame’s four-year affiliation with the ACC, and longest league win streak since the Irish won seven straight in the Big East during the 2010-11 season that saw them finish 14-4.
Notre Dame’s not done chasing history.
The Irish leave late Thursday for their final league road game of the regular season, Saturday at No. 8 Louisville. A Notre Dame win, coupled with a Duke victory later that night at North Carolina, would tie the Irish and Tar Heels for first place in the final league standings.
“It’s really cool,” Farrell said. “We’re excited. We’re just going to go down there and try and take care of our business. The only thing we can do is go down there and win so we’re going to try and go down there and win.”
North Carolina would earn the No. 1 seed in next week’s ACC tournament based on their win back on Feb. 5 – the last time Notre Dame has lost.
Each Irish team for the last three years has played top-this for the following season. It all started in 2015 when that group led by seniors Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant won at North Carolina for the first time during the regular season on the way to 14 conference victories, an ACC tournament championship and a spot in the Elite Eight.
The following year, led by senior Zach Auguste and junior Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame won for the first time ever at Duke en route to 11 league victories and a return trip to the Elite Eight.
This year’s Irish set the pace early with five-straight wins to open league play for the first time in school history. They went that one better Wednesday with consecutive win No. 6. That offered plenty of separation from the previous two seasons, and gave this team its own consistent, winning identity.
Brey went a little deeper into his bench early in Wednesday’s game. Junior power forward Martinas Geben was in after the first media timeout to give the Irish more of an interior presence. A starter for the first 23 games, Geben had registered DNP-CDs (did not play, coach’s decision) the previous two.
Geben had six points and four rebounds in 10 minutes.
“We’re going to need him,” Brey said of Geben. “That big body helps us.”
Notre Dame trailed by seven in the first half, then tossed together a big run of 15 unanswered to go up by eight. Beachem and freshman guard T.J. Gibbs were catalysts in the bust-out. Gibbs was all over the defensive end with his long arms and quick hands. Gibbs got more time after Farrell picked up two fouls the first 16 minutes.
Gibbs finished with four points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals in 21 minutes.
“He sticks his nose in there and makes plays,” Brey aid. “He just plays downhill and shakes stuff up.
“We’ve leaned on him from Day One and he’s delivered for us.”
The Eagles went scoreless for 6:01.
“I thought we took some questionable shots,” said coach Jim Christian. “We didn’t stick to doing what we were doing to get the lead.”
Notre Dame did.
Beachem just kept knocking in shots. Doing what a senior should do on his final home game send-off, he scored 15 of the first 34 for the Irish.
“He’s in a great rhythm, man,” Brey said. “He’s feeling really good about himself.”
The Irish finished the first half on a 17-2 run to go up eight.
Like that, it was rolling. Again.
BOSTON COLLEGE (9-21): A.J. Turner 5-10 0-0 13, Mo Jeffers 6-10 0-1 12, Jordan Chatman 2-3 0-0 5, Jerome Robinson 3-13 2-2 9, Ky Bowman 5-12 5-5 19, Connar Tava 0-1 0-0 0, Nik Popovic 3-7 0-0 6, Mike Sagay 0-1 0-0 0, Garland Owens 0-2 0-0 0, Johncarlos Reyes 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 25-60 7-8 66.
NOTRE DAME (23-7)
V.J. Beachem 8-17 2-2 22, Bonzie Colson 7-13 4-6 18, Rex Pflueger 2-3 1-4 6, Matt Farrell 5-11 2-2 14, Steve Vasturia 4-10 0-0 10, Matt Gregory 0-0 0-0 0, Martinas Geben 3-4 0-0 6, John Mooney 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Torres 0-0 0-0 0, Elija Burns 0-0 0-0 0, Matt Ryan 0-0 0-0 0, Patrick Mazza 1-2 0-0 2, T.J. Gibbs 2-8 0-0 4. Totals 32-68 9-14 82.
Halftime_Notre Dame 36-28. 3-Point Goals_Boston College 9-22 (Bowman 4-7, Turner 3-6, Chatman 1-2, Robinson 1-5, Owens 0-2), Notre Dame 9-27 (Beachem 4-10, Farrell 2-6, Vasturia 2-6, Pflueger 1-2, Colson 0-1, Gibbs 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Boston College 35 (Jeffers 12), Notre Dame 37 (Colson 11). Assists_Boston College 14 (Robinson 6), Notre Dame 17 (Gibbs 4). Total Fouls_Boston College 9, Notre Dame 11.