NOTRE DAME — Mike Brey could sense it coming.
Freshman Cameron Biedscheid had just apologized to his head coach after an 0-for-8 shooting performance in Notre Dame’s home loss to Georgetown last week. Including Saturday’s win over South Florida, Biedscheid had made just three of his last 26 shooting attempts in four games.
“He said, ‘Coach, I’ve got to make those for us,’” Brey said. “It was almost like, ‘I’m not going to let you down, I’ll be back.’”
The 6-foot-7 forward out of St. Louis came back in a big way Wednesday, sinking five 3-pointers in a career-high 18-point effort during Notre Dame’s 65-60 win over Villanova.
“You can never lose confidence in yourself,” Biedscheid said of overcoming his shooting slump. “One bad game doesn’t make you a bad player and one good game doesn’t make you a great player. I just keep my confidence and keep shooting the next one.”
Biedscheid led the Irish (17-4, 5-3) over Big East foe Villanova (13-8, 4-4) at the Purcell Pavilion with some help from two other unlikely sources: fellow freshman Zach Auguste and recently named starter Tom Knight.
Knight, who was making his second start in the wake of sixth-year starter Scott Martin’s knee injury, was averaging 3.2 points per game heading into Wednesday. He finished 5-for-9 from the field for 10 points and four rebounds.
Knight’s 6-10 frame coupled with 6-9 Jack Cooley gives Notre Dame a previously unseen size threat down low and was able to counter-balance Villanova’s physicality.
“I love us big,” Brey said. “We’re playing two big guys and only a couple times tonight did we have one big in when we were getting the ball in against hte press. Jack has a sidekick now pounding away. It makes the rest of our team more physical.”
Auguste — another 6-10 post presence — finished with four points but helped give Notre Dame a much-needed boost while it still trailed the Wildcats early in the second half. Biedscheid and Auguste combined for 19 of the first 25 points the Irish scored in the second half.
“He flies around, he fouls,” Brey said of Auguste. “I love it. He’s expendable. He can knock the crap out of people.”
While the two freshmen and the newly minted starter stole the show, veterans Cooley and Jerian Grant also came up big in the narrow win. Last week, Villanova had knocked off then-No. 5 Louisville and then-No. 3 Syracuse.
Cooley finished with 17 points and a season-high 16 rebounds while Grant chipped in 12 points and 10 assists.
“What more can you say about Jack Cooley?” Brey asked. “I have never seen a guy so relentless. He is going after balls. I don’t know how he has the energy to do it, but he continually does it.”
Senior forward Mouphtaou Yarou led the Wildcats with 18 points and seven rebounds.