NEW YORK – The legend of Bonzie Colson continued Wednesday night.
With the shot clock set to expire in mere moments, Notre Dame’s 6-foot-6 big man banked in a 3-pointer to put the Irish up 60-59 with 2:02 to play in a game where the Irish trailed by as much as 21 points.
“Backboard’s there for a reason,” Colson said with a smile.
That play flipped the switch and completed Notre Dame’s miraculous comeback that ended with a 71-65 win over the Hokies.
But that wasn’t the way that scene was meant to go down. It was supposed to be a nice, post-up play off the in-bounds, but Colson improvised.
Notre Dame guard Matt Farrell said he loved the play call, but stood in astonishment as Colson dribbled further and further away from the basket in what ended up being a completely broken play.
“I was kind of mad at him – he was dribbling around the key,” Farrell said. “I was yelling at him to get a ball reversal or something …”
Well, something happened for sure. Colson knocked down the biggest shot of the night – and possibly his career – to complete a 23-5 run for the Irish.
“Big-time players make big-time plays,” Farrell said. “That’s Bonzie Colson.”
Colson didn’t have the start to the night he wanted. At the half, he had a dismal two points on 1-of-10 shooting. For a player averaging over 20 points per game, Colson looked clearly frustrated. But Farrell said he didn’t seem too phased in the halftime locker room.
“He came in [to the locker room] and he wasn’t upset. He was talking to the team about what we have to do better. It shows his characters. He’s a really talented player and it showed in the second half.”
“I give a lot of credit to Virginia Tech,” Colson said. “They got in front of me in the post, they made it hard for me to catch it, for me to go to work down there. But in the locker room, Coach Brey left it up to us.”
Colson had a more efficient second half, shooting 3-for-4 for eight points. But with the Irish down 17 with 10:42 Colson ignited the Notre Dame run with a huge 3-pointer, and capped it off with his bank 3-pointer almost nine minutes later.
“Those are the shots you’ve got to hit during those times,” he said. “And it felt good.”
The ACC tournament seems to be the perfect breeding ground for Colson’s prestige to grow. Last year, Colson led the Irish all the way to the conference championship after averaging 22.7 points per game 8.3 rebounds per game.
The Irish looked lost when Colson missed 15 games this season with a broken foot. But when Colson finally returned on Tuesday, he propelled Notre Dame to a first-round ACC tournament win over Pittsburgh with a team-high 19 points.
While Wednesday night’s game didn’t go quite as well, Colson did enough to keep the Irish’s tournament hopes alive. Between Colson’s clutch shooting at the end and Farrell’s 17 second-half points, Notre Dame could be looking at another NCAA tournament bid.
“These are the times where you’ve got to show your leadership,” Colson said. “You’ve got to make big plays, and Matt [Farrell] and I, and the group, we had to show that.”