Notre Dame downs Indiana in Crossroads

WHAT HAPPENED: Notre Dame opened up a 13-point lead in the first half and held on through several Indiana challenges in the second half, claiming a 79-72 victory at the Crossroads Classic in front of 18,165 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

The Hoosiers came back and tied the game early in the second half and a 3-pointer by IU sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell made it 71-69 with 2:47 to go. Notre Dame turned the ball over and Indiana had a chance to tie or take the lead, but Ferrell drove into Notre Dame center Garrick Sherman and had his shot blocked. Notre Dame’s Eric Atkins scored a layup on the next possession to made it 73-69 and the Fighting Irish made enough free throws in the final minute to put the game away.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Notre Dame senior guard Jerian Grant shook off an 0-for-5 performance in Wednesday’s loss to North Dakota State with 23 points and nine assists in Saturday’s game, hitting two 3-pointers and making all 11 of his free throws.

Senior center Garrick Sherman dominated Indiana’s Noah Vonleh in the post, making six of seven field goal attempts for 16 points. He also had four blocks, two steals and six rebounds. Junior guard Pat Connaugton scored all 14 of his points in the second half, hitting three of his four 3-pointers and five of his seven field goals. Forwards Tom Knight and Zach Auguste scored a combined 14 points off the bench, making sure Vonleh and Indiana’s other bigs got no relief.

Indiana senior forward Will Sheehey had his best performance of the season with 22 points, matching a career high. He hit nine of his 15 field goals, but also committed five turnovers. Ferrell scored 13 points and had three assists and five steals, but was 5-for-14. Senior guard Evan Gordon had 11 points, but was 3-for-11 from the field.

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Indiana coach Tom Crean said he felt like the Hoosiers got away from the identity his young team was at least forming. When they’re at they’re best, he said, they get the ball to the rim, they draw fouls, they win the rebounding battle big. None of those things happened. The Hoosiers were 13-for-16 at the line, but took just over half as many free throws as Notre Dame did, with the Fighting Irish hitting on 23 of 30 attempts. Indiana won the rebounding battle 36 to 33, but considering the height edge the Hoosiers had at most positions, they were hoping for more. Notre Dame outscored the Hoosiers in the paint 30-24.

All in all, the Hoosiers never seemed to find a true rhythm against Notre Dame’s mixing defense — the Irish went from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone and back again — and they weren’t great on the defensive end themselves. The Irish only scored 10 fast break points, but they were effective in springing open shooters in the secondary break. When Notre Dame was in the half court, the Irish were able to spread the Hoosiers out with shooters and Sherman beat up on Vonleh one-on-one and Indiana found it hard to double the post with so many shooters on the floor.

But in a lot of ways, this game was less about x’s and o’s for Indiana than about experience. Notre Dame had it and the Hoosiers didn’t. Vonleh and Troy Williams (12 minutes, 0-for-3, zero points) looked as baffled as they ever have and freshman Luke Fischer also struggled. Ferrell had his moments, but tried to will Indiana to victory on his own in the waning minutes and missed shots on the games two most critical possessions without so much as passing the ball once. Crean said the metaphorical lights were too bright for his team on Saturday, and that was a fairly accurate description. Notre Dame never seemed to be affected by any of Indiana’s runs, and every time a Hoosiers charge fell short of gaining control of the game, Indiana seemed a little bit worse for it. The Hoosiers kept coming, but simply didn’t have as much left in them as Notre Dame did.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: It’s a significant loss for Indiana on a number of fronts. With likely doormats Nicholls State and Kennesaw State as the only two games left on the non-conference schedule, the closest thing the Hoosiers have to a marquee non-conference victory is their Nov. 21 victory over Washington, which at best appears to be a middling Pac-12 squad at the moment. This was their best shot of putting a big win on the resume and winning this game could’ve mattered significantly in March come NCAA Tournament selection time.

At this point, it’s hard to tell to even begin to conceive of what sort of shape the Hoosiers might be in at that point, whether this game will be irrelevant and the Hoosiers will still cruise into the NCAAs without this victory, whether they’ll desperately need it or whether they’re destined for the NIT regardless. The Irish are a solid group, but they won’t be one of the favorites in the ACC and they wouldn’t be one of the favorites in the Big Ten. If the Hoosiers can’t handle the Irish now, it’s hard to tell how they’re going to handle even a team like Illinois on the road in two weeks. It’s clear that the Hoosiers have substantial athleticism and that will keep them in most games, but this game makes it even more apparent that its physical traits are not going to be enough to overpower quality competition. The Hoosiers are still very much developing an identity, but that process has to find another gear if it’s going to carry them into meaningful postseason play.


Tom Crean

“We were playing against a very strong veteran-led group, and I thought in a game like this when you look at the stat sheet, the veteran players are the ones that really carried the load. Their young guys didn’t get much done and we got a lot of young guys, and they didn’t get a lot done. We’ve got a lot of enthusiasm. When you’re coaching a young team, if you’ve got an enthusiasm, if you’ve got a work ethic, they want to get better. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement there. I think we will. I think our struggle there is learning who we are versus who we want to be. We’re not a team that’s going to be real successful thinking that we’re going to shoot a lot of jump shots. We’ve gotta get into the lane. We’re not real successful when we’re not in the bonus early enough. We’re not successful when we’re not dominating the free throw line. And frankly the rebounding. … We’ve gotta be much much better at keeping the ball moving, reversing it, driving it. With all of that said, we made a bunch of runs, we could just never get all the way over the hump, whether it was a missed shot, whether it was a missed play defensively. Not as many of those, especially in the second half, we were much better. But any team that is going to be successful forms an identity. It’s formed over a period of time. What I’m learning with a very young team is that every time you think you’re taking a step toward that identity, it’s very easy to step or two back. Our identity has got to be that, going into the game, we were fifth in the country in field goal percentage defense. We were No. 1 in the country in rebound margin. We were way up in the country in getting to the free throw line. None of those things worked out to our advantage today. Give them credit, they had a bunch of veterans. We knew we were going to get their best game especially the way they played on Wednesday night. Mike is a tremendous coach, one of the best coaches in the country and has been for a long long time. They have a lot of veterans that made veteran plays. Our veterans, Will and even Evan did a real good job, but other than that, there’s a lot to work on.

“The game is never won or lost at the very end. We shot too many jumpers to begin the game. Some of that is we’re not demanding the ball inside. We’re not demanding it verbally, we’re not demanding it physically the way we needed to. We just have to be better. We learned some things today with Stan. I thought Luke continued to play hard even though he struggled with the finishing. We had to play some guys a lot of minutes, because it was just a little bit too bright in there today for our young team to really step up to task against a bunch of veterans that had played in countless games like that. The roadblocks become a tough basket that you give up, a poor rotation, a key turnover at a bad time. Things like that.

On what stood out in struggles in transition defense.

“I think with a team that runs like that, I’ve gotta go back and watch the film. I’m not saying I agree or disagree. I think any time you’re putting that many shooters on the court. … They’ve gotta lot of guys you gotta get identified quickly. It’s not like it’s one or two guys you gotta identify. I have to go back and watch the transition on film on the transition, but I thought there were other things we didn’t do as well. We lost the game on offense as much as we did on defense. They did a good job of packing the lane, well, what do you have to do? You have to reverse the ball even more. They read our percentages to. LIke I told our guys. We made one more three than Notre Dame did and lost the game. That’s not a good tradeoff.”

AUDIO: Mike Brey, Garrick Sherman, Jerian Grant, Pat Connaugton

AUDIO: Tom Crean

AUDIO: WIll Sheehey and Evan Gordon



One comment

  1. Since Coach has been here he has generally tried to play a certain style regardless of player skill. Unless you can get all 5-star talent, most teams have strengths and weaknesses and you have to minimize exposing your weaknesses and play to your strengths. I feel like Coach is determined to make kids play in ways they will never be good at playing. Austin playing inside or trying to take kids off the dribble v. trying to find ways to get open looks for your standup shooters a problem that existed with Jordan Hulls as well.

    Coach complains about settling for jump shots but who is taking the jump shots…most taken by our upper class kids and yet game after game we see the same thing. Yes the team is young but we are not helping them running in line changes, or not using timeouts at critical times, not defending the 3, etc. You can complain about Dakich but his analysis of IU looked pretty accurate to me. Frankly, we were lucky to be as close as we were with all the open outside looks we gave N.D.

    One game doesn’t make a season, but frankly I don’t think we will even be invited to NIT this year. Don’t you have to have a 500 record in your conference? I don’t think we get there.

    I had hopes that IU would play similar to MSU when we hired TC but I don’t see the same hard nosed effort, attention to detail, valuing the ball, etc. Let’s stop counting deflections and find some other measures for competing.

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