SOUTH BEND -- It was only a matter of time.
Fresh off a four-game, 1 for 14 shooting slump from long range that included 11 straight errant three-pointers, Notre Dame true freshman Cameron Biedscheid finally found the range.
Biedscheid scored a career-high 18 points including 15 of his team's first 21 points in the second stanza as Mike Brey's Irish earned league win No. 5, 65-60 over recent giant-killer Villanova.
"They are really physical and I'm thrilled we met and maybe exceeded the physicality that was going to be needed," said Brey.
"We did a good job of defending the arc which is where they had so much success in their two great wins last week (Louisville and Syracuse). It was a matter of our big guys getting back, our guards getting over the top, and we got into enough of an offensive rhythm to get a little bit of separation."
There wasn't any breathing room for either team until Notre Dame grabbed a 59-51 lead at the 4:00 minute mark, that courtesy a in-the-grill three-pointer by junior guard Jerian Grant who scored all 12 of his points from behind the arc. Grant's 10 assists led both teams and proved crucial toward getting Biedscheid untracked.
"He's a great shooter," said Grant of Biedscheid. "When we find him, he's going to knock them down. He probably doesn't even know he (was) in a slump. He's catch and shoot and just keep shooting them."
Of Grant's 10 assists, three came on feeds to Biedscheid for open long range buckets, often after penetration and a cross-court look. A fourth three-point play was included when Grant found the freshman for a long-range attempt on which he was fouled, subsequently hitting three free throws.
"They're a really strong help-defensive team. With my ability to get into the lane, and them in there, I was just able to find open shooters," said Grant.
Biedscheid and his head coach never doubted this moment would come.
"My confidence was never low. I always had confidence in myself even though I was missing," said Biedscheid of his previous slump. "But it definitely helps."
Biedscheid's hot streak came two games after he apologized to his head coach for an 0-8 shooting effort in a loss to Georgetown.
"The one thing for me in our program, guys that can shoot it, I don't want them ever sheepish about it or looking over their shoulder," said Brey. "We told him, 'Just keep taking them if they're good shots.' I thought Jerian did a fabulous job of breaking down the defense and finding him for some real key (shots).
Biedscheid and Grant were Notre Dame's perimeter heroes but it was the team's newfound big man tandem of Jack Cooley and Tom Knight that set the tone. Actually, make that a trio.
"I love the energy Zach (Auguste) gave us," said Brey of the fourth center to see court time for the Irish Wednesday night. "As we're reinventing here, we're finding some new stuff."
Auguste scored four points in six minutes, both of his field goals came near the game's seven-minute mark as the Irish extended to a six-point lead. Both came courtesy assists by Grant.
"He's caught up and understands our stuff," said Brey of Auguste's team acumen. "The one thing he does, he flies around. He fouls. I love it. He's expendable, he can knock the crap out of people. I tell you what, he made two big plays down there (offensively), he's running all over the place. He's physical and he's another energy guy. Cam and him gave us energy.
"I talked about sometimes how your rotation can get stale. I think its fair to say we were a little stale with our rotation," said Brey of his squad prior to Saturday's win at South Florida.
While Biedscheid's blitzkrieg from outside and Auguste's inclusion of meaningful contribution was the evening's pleasant storyline, it was nonetheless all-league center Jack Cooley again serving as the team's rock. The senior bruiser ripped down 16 rebounds, six on the offensive end, adding 17 points in 38 taxing minutes.
"What more can you say about Cooley?" asked Brey. "I have never seen a guy more relentless. How he set the tone physically for us in the middle, it's just fabulous, its amazing."
His effort was augmented by classmate and the second-time starter Knight's second straight double digit game. Knight scored 10 points including eight on corner jump shots, adding four rebounds and two blocks as the Irish metamorphosis to a two-big man offense continues.
"As we've reinvented here more physical and bigger, we're really embraced it," said Brey. "I love us big. We're playing two big guys. Only a couple times tonight did we have only one big in. We're playing two big guys and those big guys have to screen and pound away."
"Jack has a sidekick now, pounding away," he said of Knight. "It makes the rest of us play more physical."
Knight gave Brey 33 minutes. He gave the crowd its biggest thrill with an emphatic blocked dunk of Villanova center Mouphtaou Yarou midway through the second half.
"He gets up there now. He is a quick jumper," said Brey. "I wouldn't be surprised to get one or two of them every game because he can bounce up there and I think he surprises people when he gets up so fast."
"Those guys give us life and juice," said Brey of the infusion of new blood. "Its energized the guys playing heavy minutes, having those guys come in. Having a new guy to help."
It won't hurt the new guys can give Brey aggressive, physical minutes, either.
"We fouled tonight, I liked it," Brey mused. "You foul out, I don't care, I have another guy to throw in there."
The new-look Irish: move the ball, drain from long range, foul hard.
"I told them, 'There's no great statements,' when we lost two straight and three of four," said Brey of the recent skid. "We're just trying to reinvent and figure it out. We got more physical. We've won two (straight), lets see if we can practice well for two days and earn a sixth league win (at DePaul Saturday) in the midst of this thing.
"But its fun watching a new vibe the we have. Its energizing, and its energizing to me and the assistants."
To everyone else as well.