New lineup, new energy, new attitude. The Notre Dame men’s basketball team is back on track with consecutive Big East Conference victories heading into a Chicago showdown with DePaul Saturday.
Caught in a four-way pileup for fifth place in the league prior to Wednesday’s home game against upset specialist Villanova, the Fighting Irish got a strong lift from freshman forward Cam Biedscheid, who was 5-for-7 from 3-point land en route to a career-high 18 points. Notre Dame finished off the 65-60 victory by securing key defensive rebounds down the stretch to improve to 17-4 overall and 5-3 in the Big East.
Head coach Mike Brey’s reinvented team, which lost sixth-year senior swingman Scott Martin to knee problems, is now in a four-way tie for fourth place in the league standings. The top-four programs at the end of the regular season earn byes into the quarterfinal round in the Big East Championship March 12-16 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
In his second start of the season, senior forward Tom Knight produced double figures for the second straight game (10 points, four rebounds and two blocks). Senior forward Jack Cooley again was a coal-powered locomotive with his 13th double-double of the year (17 points and 16 rebounds).
Following a sloppy first 10 minutes (five turnovers), Notre Dame only committed one miscue in the second half for their fifth league game with fewer than 10 giveaways.
On top of Biedscheid’s performance off the bench, Brey was particularly pleased with freshman forward Zach Auguste’s play in six minutes of action versus the Wildcats. He registered four points, grabbed an offensive rebound and made use of his fouls.
“He flies around, he fouls; I love it,” Brey said of the 6-10, 230-pounder. “He’s expendable; he can knock the crap out of people. He made two big plays down there; he’s running all over the place. He’s physical. We had another energy guy. Really, Cam and [Auguste] gave us energy. I talked about how sometimes your rotation can get stale. I think it’s fair to say we were a little stale with our rotation [prior to the last two games]. … That those guys give us life and juice; it has energized the guys that are playing heavy minutes — having those guys come in and having a new guy to kind of help.”