Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, armed with the most athleticism he’s had in 13 seasons at the helm, went 11 players deep Monday night in an 84-57 victory over visiting Monmouth. The No. 20 Fighting Irish needed a spark early to get separation from the Hawks (1-1), and senior center Garrick Sherman and freshman forward Cameron Biedscheid obliged.
Garrick Sherman, left, and Cameron Biedscheid, right, helped boost Notre Dame to 2-0 start
Sherman, who sat out last season after transferring from Michigan State, scored 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 22 minutes of action. His previous career high was 10 points versus Washington as a sophomore for the Spartans in the 2010-11 season. Biedscheid added nine points and five assists in 23 minutes.
Starting junior guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant went scoreless until the final minutes of the game, senior forward Jack Cooley got in early foul trouble and played just seven minutes in the first half and Notre Dame turned the ball over 10 times in the opening 20 minutes. Tied at 7-7 early on, Biedscheid and Sherman kick-started the Irish, which went on to outscore Monmouth 12-2 over the next four minutes and grab a 19-9 lead at the midway point of the first half.
It was relatively smooth sailing after that.
Biedscheid went from not seeing a shot attempt he didn’t like in his first few practices with the team to being more selective in game situations.
“I thought his shot selection was excellent, and he’s getting better defensively,” Brey said. “He has improved defensively. I told him in a couple timeouts, ‘Why did you turn that one down?’ I got on him for turning shots down. I didn’t do that the first couple weeks of practice. Now I’ve got to kind of bring him back to don’t be afraid to step up and [shoot it]. He’s going to have to make shots for us. We’re a little streaky out there. I think he’s a guy that can make three of them a night, or five of them a night.”
Notre Dame took a 35-23 lead into the halftime break after shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from 3-point range. The Irish finished 31-for-58 from the field (53.4 percent) and 6-for-21 from deep (28.6 percent), with the only real blemish coming at the foul line, where they went 16-for-26 (61.5 percent).
“It’s early in the season,” said sixth-year senior guard Scott Martin, who finished with eight points and eight rebounds, about the team’s woes at the stripe. “That’s something you can’t really simulate in practice and over the summer. Playing as hard as you can for three or four minutes, then having to stop and shoot, or coming out of a timeout and having to shoot, is kind of a different feel. You just have to get into a game flow. As good of shooters as we have, we’ll be okay.”
Brey isn’t concerned about the team’s 16 turnovers, which is nearly six more than the Irish averaged per game last season.
“Not really with how they played us and scrambled us so much. I would have been really disappointed if we didn’t adjust in the second half and be better with the ball,” he said. “They really distort you. Last year we had that thing down at nine sometimes, and 10, you know, playing more guys, when you play more guys, you tend to turn it over more. I can swallow that if we keep buying into what we’re doing on the defensive end. I’m glad we adjusted. I think I don’t have to bring it up; they dwell on their assists-to-turnovers so much because they know the history of the program. They’re probably on themselves about it, which is good.”
Freshman forward Zach Auguste made his debut in an Irish jersey after dealing with an ankle sprain the last few weeks. He scored four points and secured three rebounds in nine minutes. Connaughton had 13 points, which included a 3-for-8 effort behind the 3-point arc, and Cooley ended the night with 16 points and nine rebounds. Atkins and Grant finally got on the board with five points apiece at the end of the second half.
A surprising appearance by freshman forward Austin Burgett late in the game means the Avon (Ind.) High product won’t redshirt this season. He had two points in two minutes of play to start his college career, which isn’t supposed to include a ton of time on the court. But Brey said Burgett is fine with that.
“We talked a little bit about a five-year program last week,” Brey said. “When we’ve done that, I’ve always told the young man, ‘You’ve got to agree with what I’m telling you; these are going to be your minutes.’ He said, ‘I want to keep playing; I want to do it; I want to get in there.’ I said, ‘Great, no debate here.’ So he’s part of it. You’ve got those 10 guys. It’s a long year; maybe he’ll have to play. Right now he’s not going to get much, but he does get great stuff in practice every day.”
Notre Dame heads to Brooklyn, N.Y., for Coaches Vs. Cancer games Friday and Saturday. The Irish take on St. Joseph’s at 9:30 p.m. Friday, with an opponent yet to be determined Saturday.