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Men’s Basketball: Biedscheid breaks out

By Chris Allen | Wednesday, January 30, 2013

As its oldest player and team leader cheered from the bench in dress clothes, Notre Dame’s freshman forward Cam Biedscheid stepped into the spotlight Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion.

In the first home game since graduate student forward Scott Martin was shut down due to injury, Biedscheid scored 18 points in 24 minutes and led Notre Dame (17-4, 5-3 Big East) to a 65-60 win over Villanova (13-8, 4-4).

Irish coach Mike Brey said Biedscheid’s breakout performance was due.

“It was a matter of time until [Cam] gets going,” Brey said. “I love the energy [freshman forward Zach Auguste] gave us off the bench. We’re kind of re-inventing here. We’re finding some new stuff. It was a little bit of Cam tonight, who knows who’ll be giving us energy Saturday?”

Villanova scored the first points of the second half to put Notre Dame in a five-point hole at 34-29 with 18 minutes left in the game. With the whole Irish squad mired in a shooting slump, Biedscheid began his run of hot shooting from deep with three free throws after being fouled on a shot attempt.

Over the next ten minutes, Biedscheid drilled four 3-pointers to help Notre Dame pull away in a back-and-forth affair. The Wildcats mounted a late comeback to draw within three with under a minute left in the game, but senior forward Jack Cooley hit two free throws to ice the game and move Notre Dame to 5-3 in the Big East.

After the game, Brey raved about the confidence of his freshman sharpshooter.

“[Biedscheid] apologized to me after the Georgetown game, saying, ‘Coach, I’ve got to make those for us,'” Brey said. “The one thing about our program, guys who can shoot it, I don’t want them ever sheepish about it or looking over their shoulder. We just tell them to keep taking it if they’re good shots.”

The Irish started the game 2-of-12 from behind the arc, but hit seven of their last 9 attempts – including five from Biedscheid – to keep the cold-shooting Wildcats at bay. Junior guard Jerian Grant finished 4-of-7 from deep to add 12 points, and Cooley and senior forward Tom Knight added 17 points and 10 points, respectively.

“What more can you say about Cooley? I have never seen a guy so relentless,” Brey said. “He is going after balls, and I don’t know how he has the energy to do it, but he continually does it. How he set the tone for us physically in the middle was just fabulous. Amazing.”

In their second game of a long – and potentially permanent – stretch without dependable starter Martin, Notre Dame displayed a physical rotation and played much of the game with two big men. Cooley and Knight rotated with Auguste, who added four critical points in his first meaningful Big East minutes, to frustrate the Villanova big men. Cooley said the team is adjusting to life without Martin.

“It’s difficult, because you can’t really replace a Scott Martin. I mean, there’s the experience he’s had and how much basketball he’s played and the overall basketball IQ he has is just huge,” Cooley said. “I realized when we get in the huddle we can’t look to Scott to help us know what to do, we have to help each other to come together as a team to show leadership. It’s hard, but we can get through it.”

For Brey, the road going forward without Martin means a more physical approach from Notre Dame down the stretch in the Big East.

“We fouled tonight, we knocked guys down, you know, I don’t care … if you foul out, I’ve got another guy to throw in there,” he said. “The physicality we play with on offense and defense is really helping us.”

The Irish will return to action Saturday at 2 p.m. against DePaul at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.

Contact Chris Allen a callen10@nd.edu