SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When All-American Bonzie Colson went to the locker room with a bloody nose in the first half, Notre Dame’s backcourt triumvirate of T.J. Gibbs, Rex Pflueger and Matt Farrell hardly noticed – they had things on cruise control in an 86-50 wire-to-wire victory over Southeastern Louisiana Thursday.
“To be completely honest, I didn’t realize he (Colson) wasn’t on the floor,” the 6-foot-6 Pflueger said after scoring 17 points to match Farrell – both a point shy of game-high leader Gibbs. “He came back with a little thing in his nose and I said, ‘Oh, you good?'”
Colson, who had a career-high 37 points in Notre Dame’s 97-87 victory over Dartmouth Tuesday, was in the locker room for 7½ minutes. But he returned to finish with 16 points, his 30th straight game in double figures, and 10 rebounds for the 31st double-double of his career.
“It was kind of neat to see all three of our guards in such a good offensive rhythm,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We’re going to need that a number of nights in ACC play. We’ve been pretty good offensively the last two nights on our floor and hopefully we can feel pretty good about that.”
The Irish (10-3) shot just 43.5 percent against the Lions (6-7) but held their visitors to 29.9 percent shooting.
Brey was particularly happy with the all-around play of Pflueger, who hit three 3-pointers, and limited Southeastern’s 5-foot-9 point guard Marlain Veal to just six points. Pflueger also had three steals, three assists and five rebounds.
“Heckuva night for Rex,” Brey said. “He’s an (offensive) weapon for us and then he’s doing everything on the other end of the floor, guarding their little guy, rebounding and getting his hands on stuff.”
About the only thing Gibbs didn’t do was hit a 3-pointer. He finished with a game-high 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting and a 6-for-6 effort at the free-throw line where Notre Dame hit 19 of 22. Gibbs also had five rebounds, five assists and four steals.
“Bonzie is our emotional leader,” Gibbs said. “It was good to get the flow without him.”
Colson had seven points, three rebounds and one block as Notre Dame raced to an 11-4 start. He exited the floor with 12:17 to go before halftime with Notre Dame leading 21-13. With him gone, Farrell and Pflueger provided the offense with 11 and 10 points, respectively, as the Irish, took a 37-29 halftime lead over the Lions (6-7).
Notre Dame used a 20-4 run that featured a 16-0 spurt to take a 57-33 lead with 13:34 to go. The lead kept growing as the Irish held the Lions to just eight field goals in the second half on 22.2 percent shooting. The biggest lead was 86-48 with 1:46 to go.
Jordan Capps led Southeastern Louisiana with 17 points.
THE BIG PICTURE
Southeastern Louisiana: The Lions, featuring 10 transfers from other colleges, were picked to finish third in the Southland Conference preseason poll. But they couldn’t keep up offensively with Notre Dame. The Lions endured spans of 2:30 in the first half and 6:23 in the second half without a field goal.
Notre Dame: The Irish, who were a plus-10 on the boards against Dartmouth Tuesday, entered the game having been outrebounded by four of their previous six opponents. At halftime, Southeastern Louisiana had a 23-18 edge. By game’s end, Notre Dame had a 47-43 advantage. Colson and Martinas Geben had 10 each.
The victory was Brey’s 392nd at Notre Dame in his 18th season. Seated courtside was the man he is chasing, Digger Phelps, who had 393 victories in 20 seasons.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL
Notre Dame started the week averaging just 8.9 turnovers a game, fourth in the country, and was sixth in assists-to-turnovers ratio (1.64). That last number should improve as the Irish had 11 assists and just six turnovers against the Lions.
Southeastern Louisiana: Lions open Southland Conference play against visiting Stephen F. Austin Dec. 28.
Notre Dame: Irish open Atlantic Coast Conference play against visiting Georgia Tech Dec. 30.