The Notre Dame Fighting Irish took home some hardware Tuesday night after taking down the Northwestern Wildcats; becoming the 2016 Legends Classic Champions.
The matchup was set Monday night, after the the Wildcats took down the Texas Longhorns, 77-58, and the Irish took care of the Colorado Buffaloes, 89-83.
With the previous three games being cake walks, the Irish had yet to face an opponent from a power five conference. With their win against Loyola (MD) the Irish were headed to Brooklyn, New York to square off the Colorado Buffaloes for a spot in the championship.
The Buffaloes are coming off a 2015-16 season which ended in the first round of the NCAA tournament and return a roster capable of beating the Irish.
It was a game where the Irish came out hot and lead the entire game besides the lead the Buffaloes obtained at the very beginning of the game; 2-0. The Irish held an 18 point lead with under two minutes left in the first half before leading 50-35 at half.
The game was anything but over as the Buffaloes came out with a 5-0 run to cut the Irish lead to 10. Colorado slowly chipped away at the lead and eventually brought it within five points with just under a minute and thirty seconds left in the game.
The Irish eventually sealed the deal, winning 89-83 and punched their ticket to the finals against the Wildcats of Northwestern.
It was a game that was dominated by the starters as Bonzie Colson led the squad with 22 points and grabbing 12 boards, earning his first double-double of the season.
Steve Vasturia and VJ Beachem each scored 17 points while point guard Matt Farrell showed he is a threat on the offence recording 20 points (7-13 FG%) and recording 6 assists.
The highlight of the game that made it to the internet within seconds and had everyone talking was VJ Beachem’s posterizing slam dunk on a Colorado defender to give the Irish a 14 point lead.
Fast forward 24 hours and the Irish squared off against the Northwestern Wildcats who came off a convincing 19 point win over top 25 ranked Texas.
It was a tight ball game that went back and forth until the Irish went on a 6-0 run to gain a cushion over the Wildcats.
The Irish led 40-34 at the half before the Wildcats brought it back within one point, 10 minutes left in the game.
With the score tied at 58, Northwestern’s Nathan Taphorn hit a 3-pointer with seven minutes left in the game to give the Wildcats their first lead since they held a an early 14-12 lead in the first half.
20 seconds left in the game and the Irish down 66-65, Steve Vasturia comes up with a steal, passes to Matt Farrell who would draw the foul and make the basket. The Wildcats would miss their next shot to tie the game, falling short 70-66.
Head Coach Mike Brey kept the rotation smaller than previous games, giving the five starters majority of the minutes. Beachem, Colson, Vasturia, and Farrell would get majority of the minutes with the average player playing 35 minutes.
Martinas Geben would see his minutes drop, only playing 11 minutes and scoring two points. VJ Beachem had his lowest scoring game only recording 11 points and going 3-11 from the field, while guards Steve Vasturia and Matt Farrell each dropped 18 points.
Bonzie Colson recorded his second straight double-double scoring 13 points and grabbing 11 boards.
As a team, the Irish shot well from both the field and behind the arc shooting above 40% in each of the categories. The Irish also were able to keep their turnovers down to 6 and forced 15 on the Wildcats which aided them in the final seconds of the game with the steal from Vasturia.
The Irish will travel home to South Bend with their new piece of hardware and start to prepare for Chicago State who comes to town on Saturday November 26th. Tip off is set for 7 p.m.
– R. Scarfone