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March Struggles Don't Haunt Notre Dame's Steve Vasturia

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Steve Vasturia leaves the court after a game last season.
Andrew Ivins

As Notre Dame made its run to a second straight NCAA Elite 8, Steve Vasturia struggled more than maybe any other stretch in his career.

In the Fighting Irish’s six postseason games — Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA Tournaments — the 6-foot-6, 212-pound guard averaged just 7.2 points per game, including a zero-point effort in an ACC semifinal loss to North Carolina.

Looking back, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey attributes the slump to several things.

Vasturia played a team-high 36.1 minutes per game, an iron man who has started 86 consecutive games. Those minutes increased to 37.1 a game in conference play.

“I do think there was a fatigue factor there, there’s no question,” Brey said of Vasturia, who was an All-ACC tournament first-teamer in 2014-15 and averaged 13.3 points that postseason.

The Medford, N.J., native also took a backseat to classmate V.J. Beachem in March. Beachem averaged 16.7 points per game in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments combined, up from his season average of 12.0.

“I give him credit, he didn’t want to force anything,” Brey said of Vasturia. “He said, ‘We’re kind of rolling doing this, and I’ll defend and I’ll play more of a secondary kind of role.’”

Vasturia, now a 21-year-old senior and an unquestioned leader for the Irish, doesn’t look back and second-guess his performances.

“It just came down to not hitting some of the shots that I usually hit,” Vasturia said at Notre Dame media day this week. “That happens in sports. Obviously I wasn’t thrilled about it, but we had other guys that stepped up. We won a lot of games, and to me that’s the most important thing.”

Vasturia could be one of the main beneficiaries of Notre Dame’s plan to use more off-ball screens, which is designed to free up sharpshooters, guys like Vasturia, Beachem, junior point guard Matt Farell and sophomore wing Matt Ryan.

Vasturia shot 43.2 percent last season and 34.4 percent on 3-point attempts. He averaged 11.4 points, 3.2 assists and 2.6 rebounds last season.

The new style of offense is intriguing to Vasturia.

“It’s cool. It’s a different way to play,” Vasturia said. “We’ll be able to attack with that and ball screens, so it’ll give us more ways to get open and more ways for us to be creative coming off screens.

“It’s kind of just simple motion basketball. Everybody in this program knows how to play, and we’ve done it in the past, we’re just doing it a little bit more.”