BOSTON (AP) Bonzie Colson remembered running around Boston College, having birthday parties and shooting around with some of the Eagles’ notable players when his dad was an assistant coach.
He was having fun again Tuesday night.
Colson scored 20 points, Matt Farrell had 19 and No. 25 Notre Dame overcame a 13-point first-half deficit for an 84-76 victory over Boston College, sending the Eagles to their 10th straight loss.
“I just remember a lot of times shooting around before practice, being a ball boy. Just trying to learn the game and learn from them,” said Colson, who recalled being around former Eagles like current NBA players Jared Dudley and Reggie Jackson to name a few.
“It’s been something that’s always been a huge part of my life and I’ll never forget those memories,” Colson said.
V.J. Beachem had 16 points and Steve Vasturia added 15 for the Fighting Irish (20-7, 9-5 Atlantic Coast Conference). It is coach Mike Brey’s 13th time winning at least 20 games with Notre Dame.
Ky Bowman led Boston College (9-18, 2-12) with 29 points and Mo Jeffers had 12.
BC had sliced it to 78-76 on Bowman’s two free throws with just under a minute to play, but Beachem grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled on the ensuing possession. He hit both free throws with 24.1 seconds to play.
“When you get opportunities in the ACC, you’ve got to make the play,” BC coach Jim Christian said of the rebound. “We didn’t. It’s a short answer to a complicated question, but it’s the truth.”
The Fighting Irish trailed by 10 points early in the second half before outscoring BC 21-3 over a 4:50 span.
Consecutive 3s from Farrell 29 seconds apart tied it at 59 before Colson’s putback jam on their next possession gave them their first lead of the game with just under 13 minutes to play. Farrell let out a loud yell when he was running down the court.
“I think in the first half we weren’t playing with any energy or any of that passion we need to play with,” he said.
Farrell had committed to BC out of high school but opted out after Steve Donahue was fired in March 2014.
“I was thinking about some extra stuff,” he said. “Some guys called me `traitor.’ It was awesome.”
The Eagles had led by 13 points and posted a season-high for a first half with 49 points to open a 10-point lead at intermission. They shot 58.6 percent (17 of 29) and also went 9 for 10 from the free throw line.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish need to take advantage of a softer portion of their schedule – with games coming up against North Carolina State, Georgia Tech and another with BC to have a chance to make a run to the top of the ACC.
Boston College: Like a number of games this season, the Eagles showed spunk but couldn’t close out a win. With leading scorer Jerome Robinson (19.4) struggling down the stretch, they really looked challenged offensively. He finished with 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
Notre Dame: The Irish climbed back into the poll this week after being out for one week. A loss to BC and some weaker opponents coming up would have made it very hard to get back in the next few weeks.
Brey talked about how consistent his program has remained in its fourth season in the ACC, posting a third straight 20-win season.
“We’ve been on a great run,” he said. “I’m really proud of our program. We had a pretty consistent program when were in the Big East. I was worried bringing it to the ACC.”
Colson’s dad – also Bonzie – was an assistant at BC under Al Skinner for nine years.
BC forward Conar Tava wore No. 30 instead of his usual No. 2 for the second half after playing the final few minutes of the first with a large tear down the left side.
Notre Dame: At NC State on Saturday.
Boston College: At No. 17 Florida State on Monday. The Eagles are 0-6 on the road in league play.
Notre Dame shot over 70 percent on 21 3-point shot attempts, but it wasn’t enough as tenth-ranked Florida State became the first ACC team to defeat the Fighting Irish with a 83-80 win Wednesday night in Tallahassee.
Johnathan Isaac had 23 points and 10 rebounds for the Seminoles, who moved into a tie for the ACC lead along with Notre Dame and North Carolina, which all sport 5-1 league records. The ‘Noles shot 50 percent from the floor and had 39 points off their bench.
The Fighting Irish made 15 of 21 3-point shots on the night, getting six from Matt Farrell and five apiece from VJ Beachem and Steve Vasturia.
Florida State continues the ACC gauntlet with a home test against Louisville on Saturday while the Irish have Syracuse in South Bend on Saturday.
Here are three things to takeaway from this win for Leonard Hamilton’s club:
1. Jonathan Isaac, man: He was so good. He finished with 23 points, 10 boards and seven blocks, shooting just 7-for-9 from the floor, but it wasn’t just the plays that he made that were impressive. It was when they came. Isaac buried a pair of threes and sparked a late Florida State flurry that pushed the Seminoles out to a seven-point lead with two minutes left. He had a nasty block on a dunk attempt by V.J. Beachem, and then, after Florida State turned the ball over on their final possession, blocked two shots at the rim to help preserve the victory.
Isaac has had some issues with intensity and aggressiveness this season, and there are questions about whether or not he has the killer instinct to be a star at the next level. Tonight’s performance should quiet some of those doubters, at least for the time being.
2. This was the first time that Notre Dame looked overmatched by size and athleticism: Florida State is big, they’re athletic and they’re versatile. Notre Dame isn’t, and it showed tonight, particularly in the first half. Matt Farrell had five of his six turnovers in the first 20 minutes. As a team, the Irish finished with 18 turnovers, and just seemed to be out sync offensively for much of the game. That’s what Florida State wants to do defensively. That is their game-plan, and it worked quite well on Wednesday.
And yet, Notre Dame was still able to hang around in this one thanks to their ridiculous three-point shooting. They were 15-for-21 from beyond the arc, the 19th team to make 15 threes and shoot better than 70 percent from three since 2010 and the only one of those 19 to lose. There are a couple ways to look at that:
Notre Dame’s fluky shooting kept them from getting exposed against a team that could take advantage of Notre Dame’s weaknesses..
That Florida State was still able to win, and force turnovers on 23.7 percent of the possessions against the nation’s seventh-best team at protecting the ball, says more about the Seminoles than anything else.
These are two excellent basketball teams that traded haymakers for 40 minutes.
No. 3 sounds about right to me.
3. Both of these teams will be in the ACC title race for the long haul: What more do either of them have to prove? Florida State has now beaten Duke and Notre Dame in their last two home games, which sandwiched an impressive performance in a loss at North Carolina. And the Irish? Their three losses this season came against Villanova, Purdue and Florida State by a combined 16 points, none of them coming at home.
VIDEO: More from Notre Dame’s Farrell family reunion
The Farrell family reunion Monday was one of the best things in college basketball – or sports, really – this year. First Lieutenant Bo Farrell surprised his brother and Notre Dame junior point guard Matt, along with their parents, after the Fighting Irish’s game against Colgate.
First he delivered what the family thought was a recorded message from his station in Afghanistan, but then made his way out to the court for a tearful reunion.
On Thursday, Notre Dame released some extended footage of how the moment came to be.
This Christmas it means much more to the Farrell's.
1. Malik Monk is the most dangerous scorer in college basketball: We all saw the 47 points that he scored, right?
And if you didn’t see it you’ve at least heard about it by now, correct?
On Saturday, squaring off against No. 7 North Carolina, Monk went 18-for-28 from the floor and 8-for-12 from three en route to a 47-point eruption, which included a pair of threes in the final two minutes to give the Wildcats a 103-100 win. I honestly cannot remember an individual performance as impressive – I’m sure there’s been one – and it’s critical for the Wildcats for two reasons:
That vaunted Kentucky defense doesn’t look so scary all of a sudden. In the two games they’ve played against elite competition, the Wildcats have now given up 197 points in 162 possessions, or 1.216 PPP, which is a pretty bad number. If this group is going to make a deep tournament run, they’re going to be playing in games where they will need to score in the 90s to win, and I think Monk has proven that he’s capable and unafraid of being the guy to carry this team.
Monk is far and away the most effective player this Kentucky team has in half court settings. Coach Cal knows this, which is why he put in set plays to run specifically to ensure that Monk would get the ball in a spot where he can do some damage. They worked. The key to beating this Kentucky team is keeping them out of transition, where they are just too fast to defend. Forcing them to execute in the half court is the better option given some of the issues they have with perimeter shooting and floor-spacing, but if Monk is going to consistently be able to score when plays are run for him, it makes UK that much more effective offensively.
2. UNC’s stars gave us reason to believe in them: We learned just how valuable Joel Berry II was last week, when North Carolina struggled at home with Davidson and Tennessee as Berry nursed an injured ankle back to health. If that didn’t prove it to you, then his 23 points and seven assists on Saturday against Kentucky should have.
Berry was terrific.
He was also the second-best player on North Carolina that day, as junior wing Justin Jackson went for a career-high 34 points and kept the Tar Heels within striking distance while their front court seemingly spent the entire game battling foul trouble. That matters, because it is really the first time against competition like this that Jackson has shown that he’s capable of throwing the Tar Heels on his back and carrying them. He damn near led them to a win, too; his three with two minutes left to give UNC their first lead since the opening seconds will go down as one of the biggest shots he’ll ever make even if it doesn’t matter at this point.
The bottom line is this: I’m not sold on UNC’s front court. I think that the Tar Heels were a bit overrated after the way they started the season. But Jackson and Berry very nearly dragged this team to a come-from-behind win over a really good Kentucky team that had a star player going all NBA Jam. That’s notable even in a loss.
3. Aaron Holiday is the best sixth-man in the country: There are 351 Division I programs in college basketball. There are, at most, five or six programs where Holiday wouldn’t step in and immediately start in their back court. There probably aren’t 20 teams in America where he wouldn’t be the best player on the roster. And yet, Holiday – the younger brother of NBA guards Jrue and Justin – is content working as UCLA’s sixth-man as a sophomore after starting his freshman season.
In fact, he’s more than content. He’s thriving, averaging 14.4 points, 4.1 assists and 1.4 steals. He’s shooting 53.3 percent from three, which leads the team. He’s playing more than 26 minutes a night. He had a team-high 20 points in UCLA’s win over Ohio State. He had 13 points and four assists in the first half of the win at Kentucky, his play changing the course of the game.
It works because of his versatility. He can replace any of Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton and do what they do. He is a point guard by trade, but he’s also capable of playing off the ball as a shooter and can score when he puts the ball on the floor. He’s also a very good on-ball defender, which isn’t necessarily the case for the rest of UCLA’s perimeter. He’s clearly not this team’s MVP, but the Bruins would not be where they are right now without him.
Not just because of his skill set.
But because he embraced the “demotion” of coming off the bench.
4. Can Notre Dame close out games?: Two Saturdays in a row now we’ve seen the Fighting Irish jump out to big first half leads against two of the best teams in the country, and two Saturdays in a row we’ve seen them give those leads right back. The Irish blew an 11-point first half lead against Villanova two weeks ago, following that up by losing to Purdue after holding a 14 point lead at the break.
Point guard Matt Farrell, who has starred in both of those games, was blunt when he asked what happened.
“I think it’s just toughness,” he said. “This is two times now we’ve had double-digit leads and it’s come down to defensive rebounding and we haven’t done that. That’s just toughness.”
“I feel like we got comfortable at halftime just like we did in the Villanova game. We can’t get comfortable, especially if we’re up by 15, we gotta make that jump, extend the lead. It’s all about toughness and winning close games.”
The Irish watched Josh Hart put together the best performance we saw this season pre-Malik Monk. They then let Caleb Swanigan get loose against them on Saturday. On a team without much proven size and with a star big man that tops out at about 6-foot-6 on a good day, it’s worth wondering whether Notre Dame has the physicality inside to be able to handle games against teams like that.
5. The Big East is as good as it has been since the split: I think that this is the best that we’ve seen the Big East since it split off from the AAC. Villanova, the reigning national champs, are a threat to repeat. Creighton is still undefeated and find themselves ranked in the top 15. The Bluejays have usurped Xavier’s title as Villanova’s biggest threat in the league, although that may change when Myles Davis is allowed to play again. Then there’s Butler, who is the proud owner of the best résumé in the conference, with wins against Indiana, Arizona, Cincinnati, Northwestern and at Utah.
There is a valid argument to make that that top four may actually be better than the top four teams in the ACC.
There also appears to be more depth in the conference than in recent years. Seton Hall is a tough, veteran group that landed a brand-name win last week, handing South Carolina their first loss of the season. Providence is 9-2 on the year with a win over Rhode Island. Georgetown had some struggles early on in the year but just won at Syracuse over the weekend. Marquette probably isn’t looking at a tournament trip this season, but they certainly aren’t going to be pushovers this year. DePaul is DePaul and St. John’s is a tire fire, but overall, there is a lot to like about the league this season.
Purdue went to a “small” lineup in the second half and made a big comeback to after trailing by 14 at halftime as they rallied to beat No. 21 Notre Dame 86-81.
The No. 15 Boilermakers (9-2) rarely used 7-foot-2 junior center Isaac Haas in the second half, instead opting to play 6-foot-9 forward Caleb Swanigan at center and 6-foot-8 junior Vincent Edwards at forward. The duo came up huge on the interior against Notre Dame and Swanigan was still effective as a rim protector and post scorer to help give Purdue the win. Swanigan finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds while Edwards had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
The Irish (9-2) had another strong outing from Bonzie Colson (23 points, 10 rebounds) and junior point guard Matt Farrell (22 points, 10 assists) but senior Steve Vasturia was cold as he was 1-for-8 from the field for three points. Purdue’s smaller lineup in the second half allowed for them to defend Notre Dame’s perimeter-oriented attack more effectively in the second half. Vasturia had a bad game and senior V.J. Beachem was also held to 10 points.
This was a great comeback win for Purdue as they pick up the program’s first win over Notre Dame since 1966. By being able to go with the lineup without Haas the Boilers played with more urgency and speed as freshman guard Carsen Edwards’ aggressive style has helped the team’s offense. Edwards finished with 11 points and his speed gives Purdue’s offense a gear it hasn’t had the last few seasons.
The Purdue defense also switched on the perimeter and made driving tougher for Notre Dame’s guards like Farrell who were dominating in the first half.
Notre Dame has dropped two consecutive games to quality opponents when they held a lead in the second half. The Irish are clearly talented enough to be a team that once again makes a deep NCAA tournament run but they need to figure out some second-half defensive lapses while also finding a consistent offensive closer to get them through games. The Irish have a balanced offense that can score from all over but who is their go-to guy? Colson seems to be the team’s most consistently productive player but he’s also limited from three if Notre Dame is playing down.
Weekend Preview: Kentucky-UNC, Crossroads Classic highlight great weekend
No. 7 North Carolina vs. No. 6 Kentucky, Sat. 5:45 p.m.: Before we get into what this game means, we need to talk about the x-factor in this game: the health of Joel Berry II’s ankle. Berry has missed the last two games after injuring the ankle two weeks ago and it’s unclear if he will be able to play on Saturday; if he does play, who knows how healthy he’ll be.
That’s an enormous issue for the Tar Heels, not only because we learned just how valuable Berry is to that team last weekend, but because of who North Carolina is playing. The way that Kentucky plays defense is that they overwhelm teams with their athleticism and ball pressure. They force turnovers, they force bad shots and they turn those empty possessions into layups at the other end of the floor. You need strong point guard play to run offense and get good shots against them, and an absent or hampered Berry would clearly hurt their chances of doing so.
And that’s frustrating, because this is a game that was supposed to tell us something about both of these teams. Kentucky’s been dominant for long stretches this season, but the only time they played a team that was anywhere near their caliber was when they lost at home to UCLA. North Carolina has been just as impressive, particularly as they cruised to a title in the Maui Invitational, but they were beaten pretty good by Indiana in Assembly Hall.
It will be tough to take too much out of this result if Berry is out. It won’t, however, affect what that win looks like on NCAA tournament profiles, which is why Kentucky won’t mind if Berry sits. Both of these teams are in contention for a No. 1 seed. UNC has the win over Wisconsin on their résumé and a full ACC slate to play. Kentucky doesn’t have a marquee win and won’t have any chances in league play to pick up a win this good.
A win is more important to Kentucky than it is to UNC.
Prediction: Joel Berry II is expected to play, but I don’t think he’s healthy. I’m on Kentucky (-5).
No. 18 Butler vs. No. 9 Indiana, Sat. 5:00 p.m.: It looks like the Hoosiers are going to have O.G. Anunoby available on Saturday, and if they do, that’s a problem for Butler’s Kelan Martin, who will have to deal with one of college basketball’s best defenders. The concern for this Indiana has been what they will do against defenses that can bog them down, and while Butler, on paper, is a team that can do that, they don’t have the kind of stoppers in the back court that will make life miserable for the likes of Robert Johnson and James Blackmon Jr.
The Big East has done a lot of good things in non-conference play this season, and this is another chance for the conference to make a statement. Indiana is one of the favorites to win the Big Ten.
Prediction: With Anunoby on the floor I think Indiana (-2.5) is the play. If it turns out that Anunoby doesn’t play, take Butler plus the points.
No. 21 Notre Dame vs. No. 15 Purdue, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: This will be an interesting matchup of styles. The Irish play small-ball and roll out a starting lineup that features Bonzie Colson, who is generously listed at 6-foot-6, at the power forward spot. Purdue? Their front line consists of 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas and 6-foot-10 Caleb Swanigan.
The question will be this: Can Notre Dame take advantage of the perimeter ability of their front court players, pulling Haas and Swanigan away from the rim, or will the Boilermakers pound the ball into the paint. Worth noting: Purdue is fifth nationally in three-point shooter while taking more than 42 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. You’ll pay if you pack your defense in too much.
Prediction: I think Notre Dame wins outright, so if you can get the Irish (+2.5) you’re getting rich.
FIVE MORE GAMES TO WATCH
Georgetown at Syracuse, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: The most intense rivalry from the Old Big East will be reignited this weekend in the Carrier Dome. The game will honor former Syracuse guard Pearl Washington, passed away due to complications from brain cancer. Pick: Georgetown (+6.5)
Texas A&M vs. No. 19 Arizona, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: This game will be played in Houston as part of the Lone Star Shootout. Both Texas A&M and Arizona are, on paper, NCAA tournament teams, but neither of them have landed the kind of non-conference wins that would make them feel comfortable about getting an at-large bid. Pick: Texas A&M (-3.5)
Ohio State vs. No. 2 UCLA, Sat. 3:00 p.m.: Ohio State is not all that good this year, but there are two things worth noting here: They weren’t all that good last season when they beat Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic in New York, and anytime UCLA is on TV should be appointment television for anyone basketball fan with a pulse. Pick: UCLA (-9)
Wake Forest at No. 17 Xavier, Sat. 8:00 p.m.: The Skip Prosser Classic. Prosser, an extremely popular coach that spent his time at Xavier and Wake Forest, passed away in the summer of 2007 while employed as the head coach of Wake. In terms of hoops, this is a game that Xavier needs to win after they lost at Baylor and at Colorado earlier this month. Pick: Xavier (-10)
No. 8 Gonzaga at Tennessee, Sun. 4:00 p.m.: Tennessee gave North Carolina all that the Tar Heels could handle last weekend in Chapel Hill. This time, they’ll get Gonzaga in Thompson-Boling Arena. The big worry for the Vols are the bigs. Gonzaga has a lot of good ones. Tennessee, not so much.
FOUR STORY LINES TO FOLLOW
1. Are the stars healthy?: It seems like this is a topic that we have been discussing far too often this season, but once again, the best players on two of the best teams in action this weekend will likely not be at 100 percent if they play at all. Indiana’s O.G. Anunoby has missed the last three games after spraining his ankle late in a win over North Carolina. Ironically enough, it’s UNC’s Joel Berry II that is also dealing with an ankle injury that has kept him out of the last two games. As I mentioned earlier in this column, both of those players are key to their team’s matchups with Butler and Kentucky, respectively.
2. Kentucky needs all the good wins that they can get: As of today, Kentucky has just one win over a KenPom top 80 team, and that’s Michigan State, who is currently ranked 43rd, a number that will likely drop as the site’s preseason expectations are phased out of the formula; that usually happens right around the new year. Kentucky will get their chances – they play UNC this weekend, Louisville next week and Kansas in January – but it’s important for the Wildcats to capitalize on those non-conference opportunities, because elite wins don’t look like they exist in the SEC. With Duke, Villanova, Kansas, UCLA, Indiana and Baylor all compiling résumés that look like they will be strong enough to put them in contention for a No. 1 seed, a lack of league wins will come back to bite Kentucky on Selection Sunday.
3. Are neutral site games good for the sport?: That’s the big question we always ask, and it’s relevant to bring up this weekend because of the overlord of neutral site events. There’s the CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas featuring UK vs. UNC and UCLA vs. Ohio State. The Lone Star Shootout in Houston has Texas A&M vs. Arizona and Texas vs. Arkansas. The Crossroads Classic pits Indiana’s four best teams against each other: Indiana vs. Butler and Purdue vs. Notre Dame. The same event takes place in Iowa, where Iowa State squares off with Drake and Northern Iowa gets Iowa.
The argument goes two ways. On the one hand, if we don’t have neutral site events we probably aren’t seeing these games happen. The typical knock on neutral site games is that the environments are sterile, empty and not what college basketball is about. That may be true in the event in Texas, but the Crossroads Classic should be packed with fans from each of those fanbases. The event in Iowa should be crowded as well, and while UCLA and Ohio State may not draw a huge crowd, it would be shocking if North Carolina and Kentucky wouldn’t fill up an arena anywhere, let alone in Vegas.
So while, in general, I think neutral site games aren’t always good for college hoops, I don’t think this weekend will be an accurate representation of that.
4. There are some fairly important bubbles games this weekend, and no, it’s not too early to start talking about these things:
Arkansas vs. Texas, Sat. 12:30 p.m.
Davidson vs. No. 3 Kansas, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
Middle Tennessee State at VCU, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
Oklahoma State at Wichita State, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
Dayton at Northwestern, Sat. 7:00 p.m.
BYU at Illinois, Sat. 9:30 p.m.
Clemson at Alabama, Sun. 4:00 p.m.