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The Journal Gazette

Friday, December 14, 2018 1:00 am

Crossroads Classic

Irish, Boilers seek important victory

Both teams enter showdown in Indy coming off defeats

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Purdue vs. Notre Dame

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday

Records: Purdue (6-4), Notre Dame (6-3)

TV: CBS

Radio: 1380 AM

Saturday brings the premier college basketball showcase in Indiana, with four of the best college basketball teams in the state playing on the same court on the same day.

The Crossroads Classic, contested annually since 2011, this year will feature a matchup between Purdue and Notre Dame at 1:30 p.m., followed by an Indiana-Butler clash about 3:45.

The games will be played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Purdue and Notre Dame open the day's festivities with an important game for both teams. The Boilermakers and Irish are each coming off a close loss and needing a nonconference win to burnish what they hope will be NCAA Tournament-worthy résumés in March.

The Boilers picked up a big victory over No. 23 Maryland at Mackey Arena on Dec. 6 but were unable to carry that momentum over when they faced Texas on Sunday. Purdue fell to the Longhorns in Austin 72-68 despite a career-high 40 points from Carsen Edwards.

Much of Edwards' production against Texas came from behind the 3-point line, where he made 7 of 14 attempts. That's not unusual for the Boilermakers, who shot 32 of their 67 attempts against the Longhorns from behind the line and rank No. 13 in the country in 3-point attempts, averaging a shade under 30 per game.

Coach Matt Painter said he isn't particularly concerned with the volume of 3s by itself, but he does want his team to make the 3-pointers easier by working to get the ball into the paint before kicking it outside.

“Our offense is more efficient when we get the ball to the paint,” Painter said. “If we can get the ball to the paint more, everything's going to be better. ... (I want them) driving more, getting curl cuts where they can get the ball and get an angle, get in transition.

“There's a handful of different ways to do it, but we have to do a better job with it, it's something that's kind of glaring for us. We talk about it before games, after games, halftime.”

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said this Purdue team has caused him to emphasize different keys to his defense than he would have against the Boilers in past years. Brey has been surprised by the amount of 3-pointers Purdue has taken.

“It's shocking to look at their statistics and half their field-goal attempts are 3-point shots, for Purdue University,” Brey said on Dan Dakich's radio show. “This is Purdue we're talking about. (Painter) does just an unbelievable job, I think he's one of the bright young coaches in our profession, but I keep doing a double-take looking at these stats.

“We really have to, instead of guarding in the paint and helping in the post, you're out on ball screens and dribble exchanges and do you switch it or do you double-team it because they just line it up and fire.”

Notre Dame comes in after losing two straight to Oklahoma and UCLA, the latter on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by the Bruins' Kris Wilkes, the 2017 Indiana Mr. Basketball. The two losses against Power Five opponents by a combined eight points stopped a four-game Irish win streak but don't concern Brey.

“I told our guys in the locker room (after UCLA), I said 'Fellas, you're gonna think I'm crazy, I think we got better this week, we just don't have anything to show for it,'” Brey said. “So I said, 'Just hang in there, man.'”

The Irish are led by junior T.J. Gibbs, who averages 13.7 points, but five of their top 10 scorers are freshmen or sophomores.

dsinn@jg.net