The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-4, 12-3) set out on the road Saturday afternoon to take on the Boston College Eagles (9-17, 1-13) in Chestnut Hill, but it was a homecoming of sorts for a few Irish players.
Senior Pat Connaughton, junior Zach Auguste, and freshman Bonzie Colson all hail from Massachusetts, with Colson actually having spent much of his youth with his father as an assistant for the Eagles. The trio made sure Notre Dame put on a show for their contingents watching from the stands, as each helped the ultra-efficient Irish attack cruise to an easy second half victory over Boston College.
Colson in particular stood out, leading the Irish in scoring with a career-high 16 points (on 8 of 9 shooting) to go along with his career-high 6 rebounds in just 14 minutes off the bench. The Irish forward was joined in double-digits by fellow big man Auguste, who pitched in 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting as well as a game-high 7 rebounds.
The story for this one may have been the Notre Dame bench, something not often the case for the Irish under Mike Brey. V.J. Beachem added 10 points of his own (5 in each half) to go along with Colson's 16, making this just the third game all season that the Irish have two players off the bench score in double-digits. Eric Katenda's late two and Matt Farrell's two free throws made it 30 for the Notre Dame bench, a conference season high.
Notre Dame finished with six players in double figures en route to their impressive 87 points, just one point shy of their conference season-high of 88 last time out against Wake Forest. Colson, Beachem, and Auguste were joined by Demetrius Jackson (15 points on 5 of 6 shooting), Jerian Grant (10 on 5 of 7) and Steve Vasturia (10 on 3 of 6).
With everyone having such an efficient day at the office, it shouldn't be too surprising that Notre Dame shot 66 percent on the afternoon, including a dynamite 7 of 13 from beyond the arc. Only Connaughton finished below 50 percent on the day, and even he shot 43 percent.
For their part, the Eagles were led in scoring by Aaron Brown, who had 22 points on 9 of 21 shooting. As nice of a game as Brown had, it's hard to watch Olivier Hanlan and not think that he is the best player out there for Boston College. The junior finished with 19 on a Notre Dame-esque 7 of 13 shooting. The Eagles shot a nice 49 percent, but that was just not enough to keep up with the Irish.
The Irish have had nice back-to-back efforts, earning double-digit victories in their two best offensive outputs of the conference season. They will look to keep riding that positive momentum against a much tougher opponent, as they welcome the Syracuse Orange (17-10, 8-6) to South Bend. The two teams tip off on Tuesday evening at 8:00pm at the Purcell Pavilion, where Notre Dame has only lost once all season.
Other Thoughts and Observations:
- Olivier Hanlan is really a great player and fun to watch. It's too bad that he hasn't been able to enjoy a little more team success at Boston College, but he will go down as one of their best players in program history. Maybe Jim Christian can get things going next season and Hanlan can finish his career with some postseason action.
- Bobby Cremins really, really likes this Notre Dame team, in case he didn't make that clear. The former Georgia Tech head coach was highly complimentary of the Irish offense and went as far as to say that they have the best starting five in the country.
- Eric Katenda made a nice move to shake his defender and drained a beautiful mid-range jumper in garbage time. Every time we get a chance to see him, it's hard not to think "what could have been" had he not encountered some really bad luck along the way.
- Jerian Grant picked up another double-double and looks like he has just about cemented himself as a first-team All-American.
- Double-digit road victories in the ACC don't come around too often, but the Irish picked up their second of the season. If my research is correct, that is second (along with a couple others) in the league to North Carolina, who has three.
- A 2-1 finish for the Irish sew up a top three ACC finish, which would put them in an enviable position for the ACC Tournament with both the double-bye and avoiding the 5th place team in the quarterfinals. It won't be easy, though, with Syracuse, Louisville (at the Yum), and Clemson still remaining on the schedule.