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Zach Auguste has learned how to control his emotions for Notre Dame

Senior forward Zach Auguste has notched double-doubles in both NCAA tournament games. Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

PHILADELPHIA -- Zach Auguste threw down the monster dunk, heard the whistle for the and-one play and for some reason, whacked himself on the head -- hard.

"Yeah, I don't know what was going on there," Auguste's Notre Dame teammate V.J. Beachem said of the in-game of whack-a-mole moment from the Irish's ACC Tournament game against Duke.

What was going on was vintage Auguste.

The Notre Dame big man speaks quietly but plays with a big grimace.

Between the end of last season and the beginning of this one, Auguste has learned the difference between playing with emotion and being overcome by it.

It's a critical distinction for a player who has become vitally important to Notre Dame's success this season and more, its chances against Wisconsin in Friday night's Sweet 16 game (7:27 p.m. ET).

To a player, the Irish all agree they feed off Auguste's energy, which is why last season coach Mike Brey sat him down for a tutorial. He cut a clip tape for his then junior, showing him a lowlight reel of some of his reactions, including the lowest of lows -- when Auguste broke his hand punching a stanchion in anger.

"That was the ultimate of, can you just take a deep breath?” Brey said. "And I think it's just a matter of getting older and being very coachable."

The difference in Auguste is clear.

He is averaging a career best 14.3 points and 10.9 rebounds and in 13 of the last 14 games, reached double figures. When the Irish needed him in the NCAA tournament, he delivered, posting double-doubles in both of Notre Dame's games, against Michigan and Stephen F. Austin.

Yet he's managed to control himself without losing the essence of himself. He's still an on-court nut, as fiery as the orange stripe in his two-tone hair. He visibly and loudly snarls after big plays, and yes, self induces pain and punishment when he's especially proud of himself.

"I draw from it," he said. "I draw from the crowd. I love playing with high energy and I try to feed off of my teammates."

But he's more than just a sideshow. He, along with Demetrius Jackson, have become the leaders for a team that needed to fill a void in that area, after Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant left last year's Elite Eight team.

"He's contagious," Jackson said, "but contagious in a good way."

A small, yet critical, distinction.