Unsung hero Grant helps Irish to win over Wildcats

The SportsXchange

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame coach Mike Brey was delighted with freshman Cam Biedscheid's rediscovered 3-point shooting and forward Jack Cooley's inside tenacity as the Irish held off a late Villanova comeback for a 65-60 victory Wednesday.

But the unsung hero might have been Irish guard Jerian Grant as the Irish (17-4, 5-3) earned the win at Purcell Pavilion.

"Biedscheid hit the 3s, but it was Grant getting in the lane that forced us to play him with two guys and that got Biedscheid open shots," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "Grant really controlled the game."

Notre Dame collected its third win in four games as Biedscheid hit double figures for the first time in five weeks with his career-high 18 points. Cooley collected 17 points and 16 rebounds. Grant had 12 points while Tom Knight added 10.

"It was a matter of time before that guy (Biedscheid) gets going," Brey said. "And what more can you say about Cooley. I have never seen a guy so relentless. ... How he sets the tone for us in the middle is just amazing."

Villanova cut a late eight-point deficit to 61-58 with 24 seconds to play on Darrun Hilliard's 3-pointer, and the Wildcats regained possession four seconds later on an Irish turnover.

However, another Hilliard 3-point attempt bounced off the rim and Cooley was fouled on the rebound with 13.3 seconds remaining. He hit both shots to restore a five-point lead.

Biedscheid hit four 3-pointers in a 12-minute span and had five for the game on seven attempts.

"My teammates encourage me so much as well as our coaching staff," Biedscheid said. "Even when I miss they tell me to have the confidence to make the next one."

Mouphtaou Yarou led Villanova (13-8, 4-4) with a game-high 20 points.

Hilliard added 14 points and JayVaughn Pinkston added 11.

"We just didn't play hard enough," Hilliard said. "We did everything that we were supposed to do, but we were just not doing it hard enough."

Villanova, which averaged eight 3-pointers in back-to-back wins over Louisville and Syracuse, was limited to just three on Wednesday.

"We did a really good job defending the arc, the 3-point line, which is where they had so much success in their two great wins last week," Brey said.

The first few minutes had all the makings of a Notre Dame blowout.

The Irish sprinted to an 11-5 lead in the opening 4:38 but couldn't maintain that pace as five Wildcat players scored over the next 5:37, and Villanova took a 16-15 lead.

Following two more lead changes and three ties, Villanova took the first-half lead for good at 25-24 at the 4:13 mark on two Yarou free throws.

The Wildcats never relinquished the edge on the way to a 31-29 halftime advantage.

Cooley had a game-high 12 first-half points while Yarou topped Villanova with nine.

Biedscheid had the hot hand with four 3 pointers in a 12-minute span.

Fouled on a baseline 3-point try, he hit three consecutive free throws and followed with a 3-point field goal as Notre Dame reclaimed the lead, 35-33, early in the second period.

Biedscheid hit another baseline 3 four minutes later, this time pushing the Irish back ahead at 41-39. He got his third of the half with 9:43 to play for a 47-43 lead. His fourth 3-pointer came with 8:02 showing for a 50-46 Irish edge.

Thirty-one seconds later, Grant picked up a loose ball and collected a layup for Notre Dame's biggest lead since the early minutes at 52-46.

Notre Dame extended its lead to eight points at 59-51 with 3:40 to play on Grant's 3-pointer.

NOTES: Hilliard entered Wednesday's game as reigning Big East Player of the Week. He helped the Wildcats to a pair of victories over top five foes last week -- Villanova's first since 1985 -- as he averaged 18 points and five rebounds in wins over then-No. 5 Louisville and No. 3 Syracuse. ... Knight earned his second straight start. On Saturday at South Florida, he collected 17 points and seven rebounds. ... Villanova leads the highly competitive series 18-17. The Wildcats have dominated in recent years, posting a 13-7 record since Notre Dame joined the Big East in 1995. ... The game was the 26th time Irish coach Mike Brey and Wildcats coach Jay Wright have faced each other. They both coached in the America East Conference at Delaware and Hofstra, respectively. Brey has a 16-10 all-time lead over Wright. ... Cooley continues to lead the Big East in rebounding, as he had a 10.8 average before Wednesday. He's also the only player in the country to rank in the top 10 in double-doubles (13), rebounds per game and field-goal percentage (.592 before Wednesday). ... Irish center Scott Martin remains out with continuing left knee problems. He had started 18 games and had averaged 7.9 points and 5.9 rebounds. ... Notre Dame resumes conference play Saturday at DePaul, while Villanova hosts Providence on Sunday.
View Comments