With four starters reaching double figures, and lots of minutes available for the bench, the Irish blew out the UMass-Lowell Riverhawks to reach 3-0. Captains Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste led the way for ND. The junior and senior reached double figures in the first half, and Auguste finished with a game high 19 points and 10 boards. Bonzie Colson and Steve Vasturia added an efficient 11 and 12 points respectively while VJ Beachem struggled scoring just seven points on 3-9 shooting. Off the bench, bomb threat Matt Ryan shot 2-6 (all threes) for six points in 19 minutes of action. UMass-Lowell guard Matt Harris was the only Riverhawk to reach double figures finishing with 16 points.
The Irish raced out to an early lead behind Auguste and Jackson. DJ drained his first five shots from the field, and was a missed FT on an and-1 away from reaching 14 points before the 5:00 mark of the first half. Auguste played well both with his back to the hoop and on the pick and roll with Jackson. The first Irish possession was a post-up by Auguste that ended with the senior rebounding his first miss, and getting fouled on his put-back attempt. Midway through the half, most of the bench entered the game. Matt Farrell, Austin Torres, Rex Pfleuger, Martinas Geben, and Austin (or are we saying AJ now?) Burgette all entered between the ten minute mark and the under 4:00 timeout. The only real negative this for the Irish afternoon was that the second unit allowed the Riverhawks to cut the lead from 18 to singe digits. After a quick timeout by coach Brey, the starters were all back in, and by halftime, the lead was up to 14.
The second half started with the original starting five, and they quickly put the game out of reach. ND scored the first seven points of the second half, and the lead was more than 30 points by the under 8:00 timeout. With the game out of reach, the subs were slowly sent back into the game. For what feels like the first time in the Mike Brey era, none of the starters played more than 30 minutes. During the late game stretch, Pflueger hit both of his three point attempts, Burgette added one of his own, and Geben made both of his freebies. With just over a minute to go, walk-on Matt Gregory entered, and while the rest of the team did their best to get him a bucket, neither of his two field goal attempts went down.
THE CAPTAIN. Burg jumps off bench, grabs 2 boards, knocks down 2 FT's & hits a 3 (5pts, 2rebs). ND 80 | UML 50 pic.twitter.com/2oX1uzUsQh— Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) November 21, 2015
- If Auguste, Jackson, Colson, and Vasturia all have performances like this in the same game, there are very few teams that will be able to hang with the Irish. All four guys shot 50% or better, and the two big guys combined to grab 19 boards.
- That said, Beachem definitely struggled in this game. He hit 1/3 from deep, but missed a couple pull up jumpers from inside the arc, both his FTs, and at least one layup. Thankfully, he didn't seem to dwell on his mistakes as he followed up consecutive possessions that ended with a missed layup and a turnover with his made three from the corner.
- Stretch-4 Bonzie went 1/2 from deep. His miss was off a drive and kick by Jackson that just went long from the corner, and his make was on a nice pick-and-pop play with Jackson in the second half. He also finished just one rebound away from a double-double.
- The Irish like to move DJ off the ball when Matt Farrell plays with Jackson. Not only does it give Jackson a bit of a rest, it also gives the Irish great shooters for Farrell to find for open looks. Brey is still experimenting with lineups, but expect to see the Irish go small quite a bit early in the season.
- Matt Ryan still hasn't seen a shot he doesn't like. That said, only one of his three point attempts was questionable, and all four of his misses were close to falling. It's safe to say he has the green light from Brey, and he intends to use it.
- AJ Burgette was one of the last guys to enter the game in the first half, and picked up two quick fouls on his first defensive possession in the second. He bounced back from the rough start by making a three and two FTs to close out the game.
- The Irish played a decent amount of 2-3 zone in both halves. During a couple of possessions, the Irish guards were very extended pressuring the Lowell ball-handlers, and gave them lots of trouble.
- Speaking of pressure, ND got 12 steals and forced 15 total turnovers while turning it over just 11 times themselves.
- A small nit: The assist numbers are down a bit from last season. The Irish had 14 assists on 29 FGs which is just under 50%. Last season ND was around 57% for the season. This was the second game the Irish were under 50% on assisted FGs (St. Francis was just 12/29), but ND was well over that mark against Wisconsin-Milwaukee (20/32).
- Also, Lowell went 40% from deep (10/25). While it's not the 66% UWM had against ND, it's still a very good percentage. Despite Pomeroy's thoughts on 3pt defense and the small samples size of just two games, it's something to watch going forward.
- With a number of ranked teams dropping games to mid-majors, expect the Irish to jump a couple spots in the polls come next week.
- The Irish face the Monmouth Hawks to open the Advocare Tournament in Orlando on Thanksgiving Day. Monmouth is 2-1 with road wins over the UCLA Bruins and Drexel Dragons. Their loss came at Southern Cal. ND will face either the Iowa Hawkeyes or Dayton Flyers in the following game of the tournament.