Jan. 23, 2016
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP)– When Notre Dame’s best player went down, Saturday afternoon, the Irish were prepared.
Demetrius Jackson, their leading scorer at 17.6 points per game, left early in the first half and did not return after suffering a hamstring injury. In his place, fellow junior guard Steve Vasturia took control of the point guard duties.
It was a scenario the Irish had just practiced for an hour and a half earlier in the week, and Vasturia responded with 16 points in a 76-49 blowout over Boston College.
”We didn’t let (Jackson’s injury) be a distraction at all,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. ”Steve Vasturia just slid over and handled the ball, and we methodically had a really good league win.”
Vasturia scored 13 of his points in the second half, and Bonzie Colson added 16 points as the Irish cruised to their second lopsided win over the Eagles this season.
”We’ve had Steve playing that point guard spot in practice,” said freshman Rex Pflueger, who scored a career-high 11 points. ”When that happened, we were confident.”
Notre Dame (14-5, 5-2 ACC) went 25 for 27 from the free-throw line to win its fourth straight overall and seventh in a row against Boston College.
One thing the Irish intentionally haven’t worked in practice in at least two weeks, according to Brey, is free-throw shooting.
”That’s become a huge weapon,” Brey said. ”I tell them to go shoot (free throws) on their own. Sometimes you can over-coach that.”
Eli Carter led Boston College with 16 points. The Eagles (7-12, 0-6) have lost six straight, all in ACC play. They shot just 28.6 percent from the field against the Irish.
”The orange ball has got to go through the orange basket,” said Boston College coach Jim Christian. ”You’ve got to make shots.”
V.J. Beachem added 14 points and Zach Auguste had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Notre Dame.
Pflueger started the second half for the Irish, and his 3-pointer five minutes in gave Notre Dame a 15-point lead, part of a 16-2 Irish run to open the half.
Pflueger also drew the defensive assignment of guarding Carter, who went 3 for 4 from 3-point range and scored 11 in the first half. Carter was just 1-for-6 shooting and missed his only 3-point attempt in the second half.
”The job he did on Carter, especially in the second half, was fabulous,” Brey said.
Jackson left the game 2:16 in after a collision. Initially, the Eagles failed to capitalize, going almost six minutes without scoring a point while falling behind 14-2.
Boston College used an 8-0 run to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 19-15 with 7:55 left in the first half, and got within two points on Carter’s 3-pointer five minutes later, but the Irish took a 34-29 lead into halftime.
Jackson returned to the Irish bench after spending several minutes in the locker room, but it was announced just before halftime that he would not be available for the rest of the game. Brey said the injury was not considered season-ending.
”He’ll go day-to-day, luckily we don’t play again until Thursday,” Brey said.
RING OF HONOR
Former Notre Dame forward and two-time Big East player of the year Troy Murphy was inducted into the school’s Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony. Murphy played three seasons for the Irish (1998-2001) and ranks seventh in scoring with 2,011 points.
”It’s a great honor to be in such a selective group of players and coaches,” Murphy said before Saturday’s game. ”It’s something I’m proud to a part of.”
Murphy left Notre Dame after his junior season for the NBA and was selected 14th overall by the Golden State Warriors in 2001. He played 12 seasons in the NBA for six different teams. In each of his three seasons in South Bend, Murphy played for a different head coach – John MacLeod, then Matt Doherty, and finally current Irish coach Mike Brey.
”It was unusual, but I enjoyed playing for each guy,” Murphy said. ”I think it actually got me ready to play in the NBA.”
Notre Dame: Junior point guard Demetrius Jackson remains 33 points away from reaching 1,000 for his Irish career after not scoring in his two minutes on Saturday.
Notre Dame travels to Syracuse on Thursday.