With four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game and a fifth in Steve Vasturia adding 9.2, No. 12 Notre Dame isn’t lacking in the scoring department. However what this team lacked entering the season was interior depth, with Zach Auguste manning the middle and their best rebounder being 6-foot-5 senior guard/forward Pat Connaughton.
With Connaughton being a three who’s used to force mismatches offensively against bigger forwards, Mike Brey needed another interior player to step forward if the Fighting Irish are to be a major factor in the NCAA tournament. Freshman forward Bonzie Colson has emerged as that player, and he’s currently playing his best basketball of the season at just the right time for Notre Dame.
Wednesday night Colson supplied 17 points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes of action, picking up the slack for a foul-plagued Auguste in Notre Dame’s 71-59 win over No. 16 Louisville. Colson was at his best in the second half against the Cardinals, scoring 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting from the field (3-for-5 FT) and grabbing six rebounds.
His play, along with that of sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson (11 second-half points, 21 for the game), helped Notre Dame withstand a furious Louisville rally to start the second half. The Cardinals went on an 11-0 run to erase a double-digit halftime deficit, tying the score at 42-all with 16:42 remaining. Some teams would wilt in the face of the Louisville pressure, especially if their best scoring option was struggling as much as Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant was.
To Notre Dame’s credit that did not happen, as the Fighting Irish regained their composure and the tandem of Jackson and Colson stepped forward offensively. Notre Dame made its last seven field goal attempts, shooting 53.5 percent from the field of the game. With Jackson being one of the four players averaging double figures, his scoring output won’t come as a surprise.
But for Colson, who entered Wednesday averaging just over five points per contest, Wednesday’s showing is yet another step in the right direction. Colson’s averaging 16.3 points and 6.7 rebounds over the last three games for Notre Dame, which wrapped up third place and a double-bye in next week’s ACC tournament with the win.
Given Notre Dame’s offensive options there isn’t pressure on Colson to become a prolific scorer. But the Fighting Irish will need him this month, and Colson’s recent play is a positive sign for them as they move forward.