The Notre Dame Fighting Irish looked to rebound from a tough road loss at Florida State in the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion Saturday afternoon, hosting the Syracuse Orange. Syracuse entered the game at 11-8 overall and 3-3 in the ACC.
Early on, it looked like the Irish would continue their red-hot shooting streak. After shooting over 70 percent from beyond the arc against Florida State, Notre Dame made their first two three-pointers against Syracuse. Four different Irish players scored during the 12-4 run that opened the game, forcing Syracuse to take a timeout.
The Irish went cold after the timeout, but then VJ Beachem took control; A baseline drive and two-hand slam got him started, and on the next possession, he finished this one-hand dunk off a behind-the-back pass from Matt Farrell:
That sequence of events was a sign of things to come. Despite the fact that Bonzie Colson sat most of the first half with two fouls, Notre Dame would end the half up 41-32 behind 17 points from VJ.
Beachem and the Irish kept their foot on the gas pedal in the second half, using an 11-3 run to push the lead to 52-37 with 14:50 left in the game. Syracuse threatened to hang around on a few occasions in the second half, but Notre Dame had answers. at the under-eight timeout, the Irish led by 18. The lead would reach as high as 23 down the stretch, with the Irish looking to prove that they could still close out a big lead. The final tally would be 18, good enough for Notre Dame’s first win against Syracuse in five years.
Matt Farrell had 15 points and eight assists, while Colson tallied another double-double with 14 points and 14 boards. If it weren’t for Beachem’s monster game, we’d probably be talking about Colson’s numbers despite sitting most of the first half.
VJ Beachem, as we saw today, is an explosive basketball player, and a game changer when he is confident. He scored a career high 30 points in this one, and had seven rebounds, two blocks and a steal. He was 6-10 from three and 12-22 from the field, showing off his athleticism and sweet touch on the jump shot. That’s a well-rounded game, right there. It’s the type of performance that led the 6’ 8” senior to test out the NBA draft waters last year.
Four of Notre Dame’s next six game come against ranked teams (Virginia, UNC, Duke and Florida State), and having Beachem at his best will be greatly beneficial. This huge shot-in-the-arm of confidence can only help.