After a wild game in the previous session that saw #1 Indiana get knocked off in overtime by the Butler Bulldogs, it was Purdue’s and Notre Dame’s turn to hit the floor in the “Crossroads Classic” in Indianapolis. While the game did not match the intensity and drama of its predecessor, it still provided moments of its own for the fans left in the stands. It was evident early on the differences between the style of play between the two Indiana based universities. The Irish played a more methodical game that consisted of being patient and sharing the ball. Purdue on the other hand, pushed the ball up the court quickly while looking to create their own shot and maintaining a frenetic pace throughout the game.
While Purdue is young and inexperienced, they still have raw talent up and down the roster. They used that talent to keep themselves in a game that they should not have been in. While the Irish were the more experienced team on the floor, they consistently found it difficult to defend the quick tempo that Purdue Coach Matt Painter had enlisted for the “rivalry” game on Saturday . Notre Dame held a lead of 15 at one point and eventually ended up winning the game by 13, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In the 2nd half of the game Purdue Frosh Rapheal Davis took over the Boilermaker offense by throwing up 21 points in just 18 minutes before fouling out towards the end of the game. The Irish offense on the other hand slowed down in the 2nd half and struggled penetrating, struggled passing the ball, and seemed to lose the aggressiveness on both sides of the ball. If there is such a thing as frustrating 13 point victory, this victory would be classified as that.
That’s not to say all was bad for the Irish, as it most definitely was not. Although the Irish guard tandem of Atkins and Grant struggled from the floor, they still found a way to put up a combined 26 points and 15 assist by getting to the line, and getting the ball underneath to Irish Seniors Cooley and Sherman often. Cooley found himself in a physical battle underneath the rim all game long, but found a way to put up 18 points and grab another 9 boards. While Sherman didn’t provide quite the same output as Cooley, he still was very consistent and took advantage of the Boilermakers’ youth underneath adding 11 points and 3 rebounds of his own. The Irish, a team that typically does very well from beyond the arc, found itself struggling at times Saturday inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, shooting just 5-15 this day. Senior Scott Martin was the biggest culprit, as he went 1-5 and ended the day with just 5 points.
If you didn’t watch the game and just looked at the highlights and final score of the game, you would probably feel pretty good about the game’s outcome. The most troubling aspect of the game was not about the way the Irish played necessarily against Purdue, but rather the lack of killer instinct from the ballclub and if this trend will continue to haunt them once their Big East schedule starts in a couple of weeks. If it sounds like we are knocking the Irish effort on Saturday we are not, but there are real concerns that need to be addressed as the season progresses. Bottom-line is the Irish didn’t play their best and still found a way to pull out a 13 point win on a neutral court, and for that fans have to be happy. Notre Dame has another good team on the court this year, but fans have to wonder if this team is athletic and consistent enough when tourney time rolls around.
Notre Dame(9-1) has a very busy week coming up as they will finish off their out-of-conference scheduling by hosting IPFW on Monday(ESPNU –ESPN 3), Kennesaw State(ESPN 3) on Wednesday, and then will close it out by facing the Purple Eagles of Niagara(ESPNU) on Friday night. Tickets are available for all 3 games at Purcell Pavilion.