NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Six games into the season Mike Brey is still searching for an identity, at least when it comes to scoring points.
Brey spent two days of practice before Notre Dame’s 69-52 rout of St. Francis (Pa.) tinkering with different options on offense and driving home the importance of setting better screens to free up shooters. It showed Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish have started 5-1 this season largely on the strength of their defense, holding opponents to 57 points or fewer four times this season.
“It’s funny because a lot of times here our offense has been ahead of our defense,” Brey said. “But our defense is really way ahead and that’s good and I don’t want to lose that. We’re still playing around with it. We’re getting some great looks from the arc and we haven’t shot it great from there.
“I don’t think we’re gonna blaze it there like some of my previous teams but, just like from the foul line, we’re gonna have to shoot it better from both of those lines.”
Cameron Biedscheid offered a respite from those shooting woes Saturday by starting 4-of-4 from three-point range on his way to 13 points. He joined Jack Cooley and Eric Atkins with 13 points to lead the team. Garrick Sherman (11) and Jerian Grant (11) also reached double figures.
Getting Biedscheid off to a better start while shooting almost 54 percent from the field put Notre Dame up 35-23 at half time.
“I can shoot the three and coach Brey knows I can,” Biedscheid said. “He just has great confidence in me. He always encourages me to take every open shot I have. He doesn’t expect me to pass up any open shots. If that’s what he expects then I won’t.”
Biedscheid picked things up in the absence of forward Scott Martin, who missed the game with tendinitis in the left knee. Brey hopes to have Martin back for Monday’s game against Chicago State.
In lieu of Martin, Sherman started and often paired up with Cooley for two-big look in the post.
Sherman added seven rebounds in 25 minutes while Cooley pitched in 13 rebounds of his own for a 17th career double-double and fourth this season. Playing with Sherman and Cooley on the floor at the same time could be an option in the future even when Martin returns, Brey said.
“When both of us are in we have a ball screening ability and a post up ability at the same time,” Cooley said. “If it’s only one of us you have to give one and take one. When both of us are in it makes our offense flow a lot better.”
Both players helped as Notre Dame’s lead grew in the second half. Sherman extended it to 13 five minutes into the half with a put-back lay-up and Biedscheid hit a three-pointer a couple minutes later to make it 51-35.
By the seven-minute mark another Cooley layup made it 62-39. Most of the starters exited with a couple minutes left to play.
“It was good to play the two bigs a lot tonight because I think that’s something we’re gonna have to do,” Brey said. “I love that our perimeter continually fed the post tonight with the two bigs that we had in the game. So, good for us.”