Following back-to-back home wins over Louisville and Syracuse — the first unranked team to beat consecutive top-5 teams since 2001 — Villanova put itself back into NCAA tournament talk. In the first road test, the Wildcats proved to be human after a surreal week, falling to Notre Dame 65-60 Wednesday night.
Notre Dame left the door open down with only seconds remaining, leaving Darrun Hilliard — the hero in Saturday’s overtime win against Syracuse — had a chance to tie the game at 61, but Hilliard couldn’t connect, as the Fighting Irish were able to hold on for the victory.
The Fighting Irish trailed by two, 31-29, heading into the break. That was before Cameron Biedscheid went off for a career night. Biedscheid, the freshman, made 1-of-2 three’s in the first half, but went 4-of-5 from deep, en route to a team-high 18 points off the bench. Biedscheid and Grant — who hit four 3-pointers — sparked the Notre Dame shooting, which ended 9-of-21 from behind the arc.
This was a big boost to Notre Dame, who had lost two out of three at home, a rarity for a Mike Brey team. Notre Dame played well in several facets of the game. Biedscheid and Grant provided the offensive lift with the deep shooting, Jack Cooley — 17 points and 16 rebounds — continued to add a post presence. And as a team, Notre Dame limited the turnovers, only six to the same Villanova team that forced 17 miscues against Louisville.
With the performance from Biedscheid, Notre Dame has seen the rise of another player. Sophomore Tom Knight, who ended with 10 points and four rebounds, has played well in increased minutes over the last few games. Zach Auguste, another freshman, didn’t put up the numbers, but was active in his time on the floor.
For Villanova, it’s a return to earth. Not many teams can produce the kind of week the Nova had last week, but remember this is the same team that dropped three straight in November, including an 18-point loss to Columbia. Villanova has gone from a postseason afterthought to right back in the conversation for an invitation to the dance. A loss might not be the worst thing. They wanted a road test and got it. And lost. Now for Jay Wright and the Wildcats it’s time to regroup and with the upcoming schedule Villanova should grab a few more wins before another opportunity to score a key win on the road.
Up next for Villanova is Providence, DePaul and South Florida. After that on Feb. 12, the Cats travel to Cincinnati to try and pull off what them almost did in South Bend.