Bonzie Colson

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Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson to return Wednesday night

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Six days after he made his return to the practice floor, Notre Dame senior forward Bonzie Colson will play in the team’s home finale against Pittsburgh Wednesday night.

Colson, who’s been out of the lineup since breaking a bone in his left foot during a win over Georgia Tech on December 30, sent out a video via his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon to make the news of his return official.

Colson played 39 minutes against the Yellow Jackets despite suffering the injury, tallying 22 points and 17 rebounds. Notre Dame has been cautious in the handling of Colson’s recovery, and has said that the senior forward’s minutes will be “limited” for Senior Night.

At the time of his injury Colson was averaging 21.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, shooting 52.6 percent from the field. As a junior Colson averaged 17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest, earning first team All-ACC honors.

Ball State shocks No. 9 Notre Dame

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Ball State had never come close against Notre Dame, let alone beat the Fighting Irish.

Both changed Tuesday night on Tayler Persons’ left-wing 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds remaining as the Cardinals shocked the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish 80-77 at Purcell Pavilion.

“I’m going to create shots for myself,” Persons said after confidently dribbling down the clock against Rex Pflueger. “Just stay aggressive. I’ve always had the same mindset — just hit more shots.”

Persons scored 24 points, Tahjai Teague added 13 and Sean Sellers had 11 as Ball State knocked off a nationally ranked opponent for the first time since downing No. 4 UCLA 91-73 more than 16 years ago.

Notre Dame (7-2) lost a nonconference home game for the first time since falling to North Dakota State four years ago.

The Cardinals (5-4) led by a high of 67-58 with 6:45 to go, but the Irish charged all the way back to a 77-77 tie on Matt Farrell’s 3-pointer with 20 seconds to go.

Persons then drained his 3-pointer off the dribble for the victory.

“I think we stayed relaxed because as a team, I think we’ve grown a lot,” Persons said. “We know how to play in any moment, and it was rocking in there and that’s a fun environment for anyone to be in.”

Ball State had lost each of nine previous meetings to its in-state rival, the most recent being almost 32 years ago by a 119-78 count. The closest the Cardinals had come against the Irish was 14 points, and ND’s average margin of victory had been 29.

Bonzie Colson led all players with 26 points for the Irish. Farrell added 14 points and eight assists with no turnovers, while Martinas Geben finished with 12 points.

BOARD BATTERING

The Cardinals consistently gave themselves extra opportunities with their crashing of the offensive glass.

Ball State gathered 13 offensive rebounds and turned those into 14 second-chance points, while Notre Dame had just four offensive boards, good for three second-chance points.

“They got us on the backboards,” Irish coach Mike Brey said after his team was outrebounded 40-26 overall. “You know what, give them credit. They played great.”

The rebounding totals landed as they did despite the Cardinals being outboarded 37.1 to 34.8 per game going into the contest and the Irish holding a 35.8 to 33.6 advantage in their games.

IN-STATE STATEMENT

The Cardinals won their fourth straight game, all four coming against in-state opponents, and it shouldn’t be any surprise that Ball State would be stoked for such contests.

The team’s roster includes 11 players hailing from Indiana high schools, easily the most of any Division I program in the state.

Four of those native sons are starters, too, in Persons (Kokomo), Teague (Indianapolis), Sellers (Greensburg) and Kyle Mallers (Fort Wayne).

Persons is a redshirt junior who transferred from Northern Kentucky after his freshman season, while Teague and Mallers are just sophomores. Sellers is a senior.

“I give credit to all our guys,” Persons said. “Every time out, we just tried to settle each other down. . (We) just played to win. That’s what our coach tells us and that’s what we do.”

Under coach James Whitford, Ball State is 46-31 over the last two-plus seasons after going 12-48 over his first two.

BIG PICTURE

Ball State: Ball State’s early season schedule has included road or neutral-site games against Oklahoma, Oregon and Dayton.

Notre Dame: The Irish continue to struggle on the heels of winning the Maui Invitational, dropping their second loss in three games. They were whipped 81-63 last week at Michigan State, then downed St. Francis Brooklyn 71-53 in a rugged contest Sunday that saw Brey ejected for the first time in his 23-year head coaching career.

UP NEXT

Ball State completes its swing of five straight in-state opponents, and plays the first of six straight home games, when Valparaiso (8-0) visits Muncie on Saturday.

In a homecoming for Brey, Notre Dame visits Delaware (4-4) Saturday. Brey began his head coaching career with the Blue Hens, going 99-52 over five seasons, before landing at ND in 2000.

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Lack of front court depth, rebounding cost No. 9 Duke

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With their lack of depth, No. 9 Duke is bound to have some issues to navigate on the defensive end of the floor. With just one dependable big man in Marshall Plumlee with Amile Jefferson still out with a foot injury, there’s only so much the Blue Devils can do when faced with a productive big man. Against Notre Dame that “big” man was 6-foot-5 power forward Bonzie Colson, who came off the bench and put forth the best performance of his career in a 95-91 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Colson scored a career-high 31 points, shooting 12-for-19 from the field, and also grabbing 11 rebounds. Colson was effective setting screens for the Notre Dame guards, most notably Demetrius Jackson, and either rolling to the basket or popping out for perimeter shot opportunities. But where both he and Zach Auguste, who finished with nine points (would have been more if not for his issues finishing around the basket) and 14 rebounds, hurt Duke the most was on the offensive glass.

Eight of Colson’s 11 rebounds came on the offensive end, and the Notre Dame front court tandem combined to grab 12 of the team’s 16 offensive rebounds. Those were converted into 18 second chance points, a key reason why Notre Dame attempted 16 more field goals. And for a team that lacks depth as Duke does, that extra time spent defending can add up by game’s end.

So what can Duke do at this point, with the timetable for Jefferson’s return still being undefined? Most likely, they’ll have to ask for even more from already productive players such as Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen.

In theory a coach would like to be able to look down the bench and grab another big man capable of helping out for a few minutes here and there. But neither Chase Jeter nor Sean Obi have shown themselves capable of doing so to this point in the season. That leaves Mike Krzyzewski stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to his rotation. Plumlee finished with eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks, doing a good job of making many of Auguste’s attempts around the basket difficult, and Luke Kennard chipped in with eight rebounds in addition to his career-high 30 points.

But with just one bonafide big man, closing out possessions and defending ball screens will be tough for Duke, which has looked to mix in some zone in recent games. If Duke is to remain part of the ACC race until Jefferson returns, the guards will have to contribute even more on the glass. And even if that does happen, it may not be enough as Duke doesn’t have a big man capable of defending ball screens at Jefferson’s level.

Indiana rallies past Notre Dame with 17-2 second half run

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Following a Demetrius Jackson tip dunk with 6:32 remaining that gave Notre Dame a 71-63 lead, Indiana looked to be in serious trouble at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis. They weren’t stringing together stops defensively, thus preventing them from making a dent in the Fighting Irish advantage despite knocking down shots on the other end.

But Indiana went to a zone defensively and received a much-needed spark from Troy Williams, sparking a 17-2 run that turned the eight-point deficit into an 80-73 victory.

The junior wing scored seven of Indiana’s final 17 points, finishing with 18 points and ten rebounds on the afternoon. Williams’ intensity, like that of his teammates, hasn’t always been present this season especially on the defensive end of the floor. But that changed down the stretch against Notre Dame, with Bonzie Colson (24 points, eight rebounds) and V.J. Beachem (18 points) both going quiet as a result. Notre Dame shot a respectable 45.5 percent in the second half, but a lot of that damage was done early in the stanza.

Mike Brey’s team led by as much as 16, but the Hoosiers managed to avoid the play that could have served as the knockout blow. Ultimately the Hoosiers would take advantage of Notre Dame’s missed opportunities, and their play in the final six-plus minutes should be something for Tom Crean’s team to build upon.

But the question that begs asking is a simple one: why can’t Indiana play that way on a consistent basis?

There’s no question that the talent is present, with Ferrell running the point and multiple players capable of scoring on the wings such as Williams, James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson. But there hasn’t been a consistent commitment to getting stops instead of simply relying on their offensive talents and the mindset that “we’ll just get the points back on the other end.”

If Indiana is to compete with the likes of Michigan State, Maryland and Purdue in Big Ten play, they have to play with greater consistency and commitment on defense. Colson and Zach Auguste were a big reason why Notre Dame scored 46 points in the paint, as Indiana continues to struggle with its interior defense and that may be a trend the Hoosiers simply have to deal with. The move to zone helped Indiana account for this issue, and unlike their failed comeback attempt against UNLV last month the Hoosiers finished the job this time around.

The last six-plus minutes showed, to a certain extent, what Indiana is capable of when fully engaged. But the fact that they don’t play that way consistently is why there’s been so much frustration with this group. Can Saturday’s win serve as the spark Indiana needs? That remains to be seen.