New-look Notre Dame defeats Villanova for second win in a row
(MCT) — SOUTH BEND, Ind. — At one timeout, Cam Biedscheid and Zach Auguste bounced into the air and off one another in celebration, two wiry and previously dormant freshmen who were jumper cables in a granular late January conference win.
During another break, trainers worked to stanch the bleeding on Tom Knight’s knee because Notre Dame couldn’t do without a senior who was an afterthought two games ago. In a 65-60 victory over Villanova on Wednesday, this was the new reality setting in for the Irish, only faintly resembling the old one.
That might not be a bad thing. It wasn’t bad that Biedscheid reintroduced himself with a career-high 18 points, featuring five 3-pointers. It wasn’t bad that Auguste provided four points and bouncy verve in spot duty. It was more than fine that Knight added 10 points, four rebounds and two blocks in his second straight start.
It’s something, fueling consecutive wins after losses in three of four. For the Irish (17-5, 5-3 Big East), for now, something is enough.
“It’s a really good start, to see how we worked,” center Jack Cooley said after battling to 17 points and 16 boards.
“In years past, you always know who’s going to play. That routine really helps you in your comfort zone, to know how the games flow. And it’s been a little chaotic in the last couple games adjusting to that. I don’t want to say it’s set, but now that we’re getting to figuring it out, it’s a lot better.”
Biedscheid was a lot better, and how. The touted 6-foot-7 freshman scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half after totaling nine points in his previous three outings.
One 3-pointer gave Notre Dame a lead it wouldn’t relinquish with 13 minutes left, and two more long-range bombs preceded Auguste’s back-to-back scores to open a six-point edge with less than seven minutes to play. The Irish had breathing room, and Biedscheid could exhale.
“I was just actually making shots,” Biedscheid said. “(Coaches) just want us to do what we can do, and they feel that I’m a scorer and I can make open shots and they want me to take them whenever I have them. Even when I’m missing, they tell me to have the confidence to step up and shoot the next one.”
The Irish were up eight after a Jerian Grant 3-pointer with four minutes left but had to weather iffy free-throw shooting late. A team thought to be polished before the season is an unfinished product in the middle of it, but at least it likes where it is headed.
“We’re playing two big guys,” coach Mike Brey said. “Jack has a sidekick now, pounding away, and that makes the rest of our team more physical. It’s fun watching the new vibe that we have.”