With a little less than a month away from the start of Big East Conference play, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey has been open to the idea of playing eight guys; it was just a matter of identifying that eighth man. He didn’t get an opportunity to test his entire bench Saturday in an 84-57 blowout over visiting Brown, but Brey liked what he saw from senior forward Tom Knight.
Freshman Cameron Biedscheid led the Irish with 17 points in an 84-57 win over Brown
On an evening when senior center Garrick Sherman sat out with a bruised knee, Knight played 16 minutes, scored four points and grabbed seven rebounds. It wasn’t a Player of the Week statistical line, but it was enough for Brey to praise the 6-foot-10, 258-pounder.
“I’m thrilled with the lift Tom Knight gave us,” Brey said. “It’s interesting how it makes me think a little differently here as we move forward. That may be our seventh guy. Of course, he saved us before (last season) coming off the bench.”
When asked to clarify whether or not he meant Knight was possibly seventh in the rotation, or if he really meant eighth, Brey replied: “seven.”
Brey's remarks are certainly open for interpretation, and it’s unclear right now whether it's a clever ploy to fire up Sherman, or if the two are really running that close of a race. Prior to Saturday’s contest, Sherman was averaging 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 18.6 minutes per game. Knight had played just 3.3 minutes per outing in four games and had no points and five rebounds. He scored 2.9 points and secured 1.5 rebounds per game off the bench in 2011-12.
What’s certain is freshman forward Cameron Biedscheid has a very, very high ceiling. In 17 minutes off the bench, the do-it-all playmaker scored a team-high and career-best 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, which included a pair of 3-pointers.
Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley and Scott Martin finished with 15 and 14 points, respectively, and Jerian Grant (12 points, seven assists) and Eric Atkins (10 points, 12 assists) also reached double figures. Atkins has just one turnover through the last three games for the No. 22-ranked Fighting Irish, which improved to 8-1 this season.
Brown’s Matt Sullivan knocked down 50 percent of his shots en route to 18 points, and fellow guard Sean McGonagill added 15 points in the effort for the Bears, which slipped to 3-5 this season.
Illness reared its head at a time when Notre Dame had eight days between games and was supposed to be healing up from early-season bumps and bruises. Flu-like symptoms originated with walk-on Pat Crowley to Biedscheid to freshman Austin Burgett. After the game, Cooley was coughing pretty hard and admitted he was getting sick.
Biedscheid turned in a healthy performance nevertheless.
“He wouldn’t miss it,” Brey said. “I’m thrilled with what he’s giving us.”
The Irish shot 50 percent for the game, making 34 of 68 attempts from the field. Both Notre Dame and Brown buried nine 3-pointers, with the Irish attempting 26 shots from deep and the Bears heaving 25 from behind the arc.
The Fighting Irish shot 48.6 percent (18-for-37) from the field in the first half, with Martin connecting on 4 of 8 attempts from behind the 3-point line for a team-high 11 points. Martin also pulled down five rebounds through the first 20 minutes. Atkins added nine points and five assists in the opening frame.
Brown made 10 of 24 shots, including 4 of 10 from 3-point range in the first half. The Irish pummeled the Bears in points off turnovers (11-0) and in the paint (18-6). Notre Dame began a 10-0 run at the 10-minute mark to grab a 25-15 cushion. A 3-pointer and drive by Atkins, a triple by Martin and a basket down low by Cooley set the tone for the rest of the stanza as the Irish outscored Brown 12-5 in the final minutes for a 42-27 advantage at the break.
With Sherman out, Auguste and Knight played four and six minutes, respectively, in the first half. Biedscheid registered five minutes.
Notre Dame returns to action on Dec. 15 when it takes on Purdue at the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and will air on ESPN2. Indiana and Butler square off earlier in the day at 2 p.m.