Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Colson, Irish Sting Yellow Jackets

February 26, 2017

The Irish are officially back. Following a four-game losing streak, the Irish have now reeled off five straight victories after a 64-60 nail biter of a win on Sunday night at Purcell Pavilion against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. 

The Irish avenged a 62-60 loss to the Yellow Jackets last month with a gutsy win led by Bonzie Colson's ACC-leading 17th double-double. 

Colson scored 20 points to go along with 11 boards and Matt Farrell had 17 points, including nine of 10 free throws. Tadric Jackson led Georgia Tech with 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting.

The Irish improved to 22-7 with the win, giving them an 11-5 ACC record and keeping them in contention for a first-round bye in the ACC conference tournament which starts March 7th. The Yellow Jackets fell to 16-13, 8-8 in the ACC. 

Despite the Yellow Jackets outshooting the Irish 45 percent to 35 percent, the Irish outshot the Jackets from the three-point arc and foul line, which helped them close it out down the stretch.

"Our defense was the difference," stated Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey. "They are hard to play against because they are very good defensively. We missed some looks we usually make but it didn’t effect us going back on the other end and guarding."

A ridiculous fall away jumper by Farrell gave the Irish a six-point advantage and got the crowd going with 3:29 to play. Farrell caught a loose ball in the corner and threw it up just as the shot clock expired. A Steve Vasturia layup sent the crowd into a frenzy with 2:57 to go and the Irish leading 56-48.

"We're a hard-nosed, gritty team that isn't just an offensive juggernaut," said Irish forward Rex Plflueger. "We're here to play defense. We're here to play defense and get those 50/50 balls. That's our mentality."

A couple clutch plays by the Irish defense kept the Yellow Jackets at bay, a big block by V.J. Beachem and a huge rebound by Colson. However, Georgia Tech hung tough as Jackson scored eight straight points to cut the Irish lead to 61-58 with 31 seconds to play.

"He can make an impact on both ends and he did tonight," Brey said of Colson.

Missed free throws allowing Georgia Tech to stay in the game until the waning seconds, but Farrell iced it from the line with three seconds left. 

Both teams opened the second half trading baskets with Farrell hitting a three-pointer for the Irish and Ben Lammers throwing down a put-back dunk for the Yellow Jackets. At the first TV timeout of the half, the Irish maintained their six-point advantage 40-34.

A Beachem triple gave the Irish their largest lead of the game at 43-34. Georgia Tech picked a bad time to have a two-and-a-half-minute scoring drought as they struggled to find offense. Drives by Josh Okogie and Jackson cut the Irish lead to four.

An 0-for-8 stretch from the field for Notre Dame helped the Yellow Jackets get back into it. The Irish went scoreless for over four minutes, but that stretch was snapped thanks to a big three from Colson. At the midway point of the half, the Irish led 48-41 as the Yellow Jackets just would not go away.

Both teams went very cold the next few minutes with the Irish going over two minutes without points and the Yellow Jackets going over five minutes without a field goal. With 5:23 left to go, the Irish led 52-46. 

In the first half, both teams got off to quick starts, shooting over 50 percent in the early going. Okogie led the Yellow Jackets with nine points at the first media timeout of the game with his team leading 13-12. Colson caught fire hitting back-to-back shots to give the Irish the lead back.

At the midway point of the half, Irish led 20-17 as neither team could pull away from each other. Georgia Tech continued to shoot a very high percentage, keeping them in the game. Despite the Irish shooting cooling off, second-chance points proved to be important as the Irish corralled a few offensive rebounds. 

With eight minutes left in the half, the Irish still led, but only by a 22-20 count. A 7-0 run keyed by back-to-back buckets by Colson got the Purcell Pavilion crowd on its feet. With 3:13 to go before half, the Irish led 30-24. 

A Rex Pflueger three gave the Irish an eight-point lead, their largest of the half at 34-26. The game got a little physical towards the end of the half when Okogie knocked down Matt Ryan in transition. The Irish took a 34-28 lead into the locker room, shooting just 41% and being led by Colson's 12 points. Georgia Tech shot 50 percent, but turned the ball over nine times. Okogie led the Yellow Jackets with 11 points.

Player of the Game: Bonzie Colson. The senior forward had his fingerprints all over this one with some key offensive rebounds and also was a perfect three-for-three from beyond the arc.

Unsung Hero: Steve Vasturia. Making his 130th career start for the Irish, the senior forward didn't shoot particularly well, but found other ways to get involved with five rebounds and five assists to go along with seven points. 

Up Next: The Irish host Boston College on Wednesday night for the final home game of the season at Purcell Pavilion.

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