The regular season is well underway in College Basketball, for Notre Dame, however, it may as well have officially started on a cold Monday night in Brooklyn.
Bonzie Carlson finished with 22 points to lead Notre Dame to a tough 89-83 win over Colorado in the semifinal round of the Legends Classic at Barclays Center.
Senior V.J. Beachem added 17 points and junior Matt Farrell scored 20 points for the Fighting Irish. Colorado was led by Xavier Johnson with 23 points.
Notre Dame started their season with convincing wins over Bryant, Seattle, and Loyola Maryland. But Colorado, an NCAA tournament team last season, would be a step up in competition.
The Fighting Irish, paced by the play of Carlson, led by as much as 18 in the first half and appeared headed towards a runaway victory. Colorado, much to their credit, bounced back in the second half and made it a game by relentlessly attacking the basket and getting to the foul line.
Beacham, with Notre Dame leading 68-57 converted a three-point play after being fouled on a slam dunk which ignited the crowd. Colorado showed their resilience and answered back with an impressive 8-0 run to make cut Notre Dame’s lead to 71-65. Beacham, showing a great deal of poise, knocked down a jumper to end the run.
Colorado would again close within striking distance, cutting Notre Dame’s lead to four with before the Fighting Irish sealed it with free throws.
Both teams made the most of their free throws throughout the game, Colorado finished 18 of 19 for 94.7 percent. However, it was Notre Dame’s efficiency at the line, 27 of 29 for 93.1 percent, which proved to be a difference-maker.
“They made free throws down the stretch when they had to,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said after the game. “We knew they were a good free-throw shooting team, so it’s tough to come back on teams like that. I liked our fight but we need to have that for 40 minutes. Not for 20.”
Notre Dame finished with four players (Beachem, Colson, Farrell, and Steve Vasturia) in double-figures for scoring.
“This was a heck of a win for this group,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said afterwards. “I loved that we got off to a great start. We were flowing offensively.”
“I’m proud of how we held people off. We have a lot of guys that have been in big games. They have win big games and had pressure on them. I thought that experience helped us escape tonight.”
With the football team underperforming this season, fans of the Fighting Irish can find comfort in how their men’s basketball program has come out of the starting blocks for the 2016-17 campaign.
Notre Dame advances to the Legends Classic final where they’ll face either Texas or Northwestern.