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Three Things We Learned: Notre Dame vs Syracuse

The Irish returned home and stomped the Orange on Saturday

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

On a day where former All-American David Rivers was inducted into Notre Dame’s Ring of Honor at halftime, the Irish came out in the second half and played like All-Americans themselves.

The Irish stormed out of the halftime gates with a 9-0 run to take a 16 point lead early in the second half and cruised the rest of the way to an 84-66 win over Syracuse on Saturday in South Bend. With the win, the Irish prevented what would have been their first losing streak of the season. Instead, they got back on track against a team they had not beaten in their last four attempts. Here are the takeaways from this weekend’s performance.

VJ Beachem is officially back, and then some

Early in ACC play, many Irish fans wondered when they would see the VJ Beachem that was expected to be the most electrifying offensive presence for the Irish this season. Those fans certainly had their questions answered on Saturday.

Beachem scored a career high 30 points on 12-22 shooting, including tying a career high with six three pointers (6-10 from beyond the arc). Beachem was firing on all offensive cylinders and scoring in multiple ways to carve up the Orange defense. He showed his impressive ability to drive baseline and score at the rim early in the first half with a two-handed slam. He also threw down a thunderous dunk off of a beautiful behind-the-back pass from Matt Farrell.

In the second half, Beachem showed his strength in the paint when he fought through two Orange defenders and muscled in a tough layup. Then there was the three point shooting display to put a bow on what was arguably Beachem’s best performance in his Notre Dame career.

Playing zone defense against the Irish is a death sentence

Notre Dame is so tough to defend, especially against the zone. The Irish torched the zone defense of the Orange with 11 three pointers, with Beachem and Farrell being the hot hands. Mike Brey has to love his chances against a zone defense when he has a facilitator like Farrell who can drive to the basket and draw the defense in, leaving the Irish and their sharp shooters waiting for the kick-out pass to drop a dagger from three.

Even Rex Pflueger showed a solid ability to drive and dish against the zone on Saturday, which adds to an already lethal Irish offense. Defenses have to respect Notre Dame’s perimeter shooting, which leads to space in the paint for Bonzie Colson to do damage at the rim of from the elbows. You just can’t take a possession off against this team, especially when Farrell and Beachem are playing at high levels.

Bonzie Colson will get his usual double-double no matter what

Colson finished the day with 14 points and 14 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season. This would usually be a normal day at the office for Colson (as we’ve come to expect this from him) if not for the fact that he was confined to the bench for much of the first half due to foul trouble. Despite the limited minutes, Colson still found a way to post an impressive double-double.

Colson and the Irish offense will get arguably their toughest test in terms of defensive opponent when they play Virginia on Tuesday.