IU men’s basketball is heading into its final marquee non-conference matchup looking for a spark. The Hoosiers are 5-5 and will play No. 18 Notre Dame in this year’s edition of the Crossroads Classic on Saturday at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Just two years ago, IU used a win over Notre Dame in this same event to propel itself to a 12-game winning streak. The 2017-18 Hoosiers could find a similar momentum-building win this year in the seventh edition of the Crossroads Classic. Here are some things to know about the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame is a strong shooting team as always
Led by the sharpshooting backcourt of senior Matt Farrell and sophomore T.J. Gibbs, Notre Dame is 10th in the country with makes on 42.6 percent of their 3-point attempts. Farrell, who shoots 40.9 percent from deep, and Gibbs, who makes 53.2 percent of his 3-pointers, both play heavy minutes for the Irish. The guards have both started all 10 games this season and are on the court for more than 34 minutes per game.
Freshman D.J. Harvey and junior Rex Pflueger also provide perimeter shooting as wings that combine for about 15 points per game. Given that the Hoosiers have allowed opponents to shoot better than 40 percent from long range this season, locking down the perimeter will be a priority for IU.
The Fighting Irish also lost to a smaller in-state school this season
Fans won’t soon forget IU’s opening night loss to Indiana State. It started the season off on the wrong foot, but the Sycamores weren’t the only mid-major school in the state of Indiana to take down one of the state’s juggernauts.
Ball State visited Notre Dame on Dec. 5 and came away with an 80-77 victory that gave the Irish their second loss of the season. It took a buzzer-beater for the Cardinals to get the win, but IU Coach Archie Miller said he saw Ball State outhustling Notre Dame throughout that contest.
Notre Dame’s leader Bonzie Colson has experience playing well against IU
In the 2015 Crossroads Classic game between IU and Notre Dame, Colson was just a sophomore forward in the midst of his breakthrough season. He delivered a game-high 24 points to go along with eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Colson dominated that game in the paint as he made 11 of his 16 attempts, all of which came inside the 3-point line.
Now, Colson is a seasoned veteran and was named the ACC’s Preseason Player of the Year. In his senior season, he’s averaging 19.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. IU’s front line of junior forward Juwan Morgan and sophomore forward De’Ron Davis will be tasked with slowing Colson down while staying out of foul trouble. Miller said Colson could burn the Hoosiers with his versatility.
“He's position-less, and he's in a free-flowing motion offense where you really have to be concerned that he can beat you from a lot of different areas,” Miller said of Colson.
Coach Mike Brey doesn’t go to his bench often
Only seven Notre Dame players have seen action in all 10 games this season, and those same seven are the only ones who average more than 10 minutes per game. Colson, Farrell, Gibbs and Pflueger each average more than 31 minutes each contest.
Harvey and sophomore forward John Mooney are the biggest contributors off the Notre Dame bench, but they only average around 10 points between the two of them. With 83.2 percent of their scoring coming from their starters, the Irish have a clear set of established players for the Hoosiers to hone in on.
The Fighting Irish don’t turn the ball over
With Farrell leading the way as Notre Dame’s point guard, the veteran squad is careful with the ball. The Irish have the fifth fewest turnovers as a team, with just 89 through 10 games.
Farrell himself leads Notre Dame with 2.1 turnovers per game, but he also dishes out an impressive 5.2 assists per game. None of the Irish reserves have more than six turnovers this season.
Notre Dame limits turnovers in a way Miller hopes his future IU teams will, so the first-year coach appreciates the way Brey has focused on bringing in players who will execute his style efficiently.
“They have a great philosophy on how they want to play,” Miller said about the Fighting Irish. “They do an unbelievable job of recruiting to their style.”
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