SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When V.J. Beachem decided to return to school for his senior season rather than enter the NBA Draft last summer, he probably envisioned games like the one he had Saturday afternoon as a reason for doing so.
The senior captain erupted for a career-high 30 points, including six three-pointers, to lead the No. 15 Notre Dame Fighting Irish to a dominant 84-66 victory over the Syracuse Orange.
“V.J. was fabulous,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. “When we get him flowing like that, it’s a confidence-giver to his teammates.”
For Mike Brey and the Fighting Irish, Syracuse and Jim Boeheim have become an all-too-familiar opponent over the last decade and a half, as the two schools were rivals in the old Big East, and now of course, in the new ACC. Notre Dame has had some trouble solving the vaunted Syracuse zone recently, coming into today’s game having lost seven of their last eight versus the Orange.
But Beachem played the role of zone-buster early, connecting on several open three-pointers and completing a pair of drives with emphatic dunks.
“We were really anxious to play against (the zone),” Beachem said. “The way we play offensively, we felt like we’d be fine against it.”
The original game plan called for Bonzie Colson to play a key role offensively in the middle of the zone, but he got into foul trouble early in the contest. That opened the floor for slashers like Beachem and Matt Farrell to drive into the zone and kick it.
“The drive really opens up the outside shot for me,” Beachem added. “When you can get into the middle of the lane and make everybody look and collapse, that’s when the outside really opens up.”
Tyler Lydon led the Orange with 24 points and 10 rebounds, but the rest of the visitors were unable to offer much assistance. The team shot 6-of-19 from deep as a whole.
“We have to have more guys (help),” Boeheim said after the game. “I can’t even describe how disappointed I am in a couple guys on our team.”
The win allows the Fighting Irish to keep pace with North Carolina and Florida State at the top of the ACC, each with 6-1 records. Notre Dame will be in action again on Tuesday when they host No. 16 Virginia.