SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Bonzie Colson’s tough enough against double-teaming defenses, but Mount St. Mary’s typically opted to counter the Notre Dame preseason All-American with single coverage Monday night.
That didn’t work so well either.
Colson recorded his 25th career double-double with 27 points and 11 rebounds, and junior teammate Rex Pflueger added his first with 13 points and 10 boards, as the No. 13-ranked Irish rolled to an 88-62 victory.
“If they’re going to play Bonzie with one guy, we’re gonna keep throwing it in there,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “He just kept making (good) decisions with it.”
Efficient throughout, Colson went 11-of-15 from the field and 4-of-4 from the line. The 6-foot-5 senior also recorded three blocked shots and three steals.
Pflueger added five assists to his versatile line, while point guard Matt Farrell had 12 points and five assists.
The Irish (2-0) improved to 18-0 in home debuts under Brey despite a sometimes choppy first half that yielded a 40-32 lead at the break.
“They are too hard on themselves sometimes,” Brey said of his players. “As you can see, there’s frustration. I’m trying to get them to move on to the next play, not worry about a missed shot or a mistake, and that’s an area we need to grow, especially before we go to Maui and that atmosphere.”
Notre Dame blitzed the Mountaineers (0-2) to begin the second half with a 14-0 run that gave them permanent control.
“I loved some of the transition decisions we got early in the second half off our defense,” Brey said after his team outscored Mt. St. Mary’s 10-0 on the fast break for the night. “We’ve talked about this is a group that’s going to get more steals and more deflections, so that means we’re going to be out there with (number advantages).”
Junior Robinson, the Mount’s 5-foot-5 senior guard, led the visitors with 14 points, but had just two after halftime. Freshman Bobby Planutis added 11 points and seven boards.
Mount St. Mary’s led 23-20 with 6:23 to go in the first half, before ND went on an 11-0 run ignited by Colson’s offensive-rebound slam at the 5:56 mark.
Plueger added back-to-back steals for baskets as part of that spurt and Notre Dame never relinquished the lead.
POWER IN THE PAINT
Notre Dame ruled inside, and it wasn’t just Colson. The Irish finished with a 44-18 advantage in paint points.
They also had 11 second-chance points and closed with a 39-29 rebounding edge overall.
We thought we could beat them up inside and throw it in there,” Brey said.
FINE AT THE LINE
The Irish led the country in free throw percentage last season at 80.0 percent, and Brey figures it’s possible to lead again, even with the departures of regulars like Steve Vasturia (91.0) and VJ Beachem (83.6).
ND didn’t disappoint him Monday, going 18-of-19 at the stripe.
“We can be right there leading the nation again from there,” Brey said.
Notre Dame: Even in a first half that wasn’t aesthetic by Irish standards, they still committed just three turnovers while weathering the Mount’s early momentum. It was the second straight game that ND went on to control in the second half, and more of the same figures to be ahead for a veteran unit.
Mount St. Mary’s: The young Mountaineers, facing a taxing early schedule, are likely to improve as the season moves along. They’re starting three freshmen and a sophomore on the heels of Elijah Long transferring to Texas and Miles Wilson to Miami in the offseason.
Notre Dame hosts Chicago State on Thursday, before departing for Hawaii and three games Nov. 20-22 in the Maui Invitational.
Mount St. Mary’s wraps up a trio of road dates against historically marquee names to start the season when it visits nearby Georgetown on Wednesday.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.