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HOOPS Preview: Notre Dame vs. Purdue

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USA TODAY Sports (Kirby Lee & Rick Osentoski)

NOTRE DAME (6-3, 0-0 ACC) VS. PURDUE (6-4, 1-1 BIG 10)

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)

Rankings: Both teams are unranked.

TV/Time: CBS, 1:30 p.m. ET

Series Facts: Notre Dame leads the all-time series 22-21.

Last Meeting: Purdue 86-81 on Dec. 17, 2016.

The 2018 Crossroads Classic is upon us and Notre Dame is set to take on Purdue down in Indianapolis.

The two programs square off every other year in the annual event with the Boilermakers taking the last meeting in 2016. Both teams enter the matchup coming off a loss their last time out with the Irish losing two-straight and Purdue falling in four of its last six contests.

Blue & Gold Illustrated previews both programs before the two meet this afternoon.

NOTRE DAME OVERVIEW

Last week was a rough one for Notre Dame in the win-loss column.

The Irish dropped two close ones to Oklahoma (85-80) and UCLA (65-62) with the latter being more of the heartbreaker.

Notre Dame trailed by seven at the half to the Sooners, but eventually took the lead in the second half. But, a more veteran Oklahoma closed strong as the Irish couldn’t hit from the free throw line or from deep to pull it out.

Junior forwards John Mooney and Juwan Durham played well in the loss each scoring 15 points while Mooney grabbed 14 boards (fourth double-double of the season at the time). Junior guard TJ Gibbs added 18 points while sophomore wing DJ Harvey added 11. Freshmen Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski provided quality minutes in their first road games of their young careers with eight and seven points, respectively.

Not the result the Irish wanted, but it was a much-needed learning experience before traveling out to Los Angeles for the team’s first true road game against UCLA.

It is no secret the Irish have not shot the ball well this season hitting under 42 percent of their attempts and only 31.2 percent behind the arc. But, the first half against the Bruins was rock bottom in those regards.

Notre Dame hit just 8-of-35 (22.9 percent) from the field for their worst performance of the season to date while UCLA raced out to a 31-20 lead.

The Irish did not give up, however, and slowly kept chipping away at the Bruins lead. With 6:50 remaining, freshman guard Prentiss Hubb hit two free throws to give Notre Dame a 54-53 advantage. That lead sat at 62-57 with 3:45 left after guard Rex Pflueger drilled an open three-point attempt.

It appeared the Irish would overcome their first half woes to pull off the upset, but Pflueger’s basket would be their last of the game. UCLA tied the game at 62 after Hubb fouled guard Prince Ali on a three-point attempt with 2:17 remaining.

Both teams struggled the next two minutes when the Irish had a chance to go up with under 10 seconds remaining.

Hubb drove to the basket, but was blocked from behind by Jalen Hill. Ali grabbed the ball and raced up the court when he found a trailing Kris Wilkes, who elevated and drilled a three-point bucket with under one second remaining to send Notre Dame home heartbroken.

It was a valiant effort, but the struggles from the first half and to end the second were just a little too much to overcome in the end.

There were a few positives however with Mooney getting another double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Pflueger notching 14 points in his homecoming, which will be much-needed moving forward. Harvey also played well with 13 points and six boards.

Mike Brey and company endured a tough week, no doubt about it. But, there were plenty of lessons for the young teams as they continue to search for long-terms answers offensively in the opening half. The group will also be down a guard after it was announced freshman Robby Carmody would miss the rest of the season due to a torn labrum in his shoulder.

PURDUE OVERVIEW

During Matt Painter’s run in West Lafayette, Purdue has been known for a team that will hurt you down low more so than one that will take a bunch of three-pointers.

The Boilermakers have consistently, under Painter, ranked in the 100s and 200s nationally in terms of three-point attempts and in three-point baskets making up the percentage of points scored by the team.

That has begun to change over the past five seasons.

In the 2013-2014 season, Purdue ranked 290th in KenPom’s metric of three-point attempts divided by the number of overall field goal attempts (27.9%) while sitting 268th in three-point buckets making up the total points distribution (22.8%).

Both of those numbers have gone up nationally over the past five seasons since. Purdue ranked 102nd a year ago taking 40.1 percent of their total shots behind the arc while finishing 80th getting 35.6 percent of their points on three-point attempts.

This year? Much of the same. Purdue is 8th nationally getting 43.2 percent of their points from three-point buckets while 49.2 percent of their shots have been behind the arc (49.2%).

Quite the contrast to previous years under Painter.

Now, don’t let that fool you. The Boilermakers still have talent down low. Sophomore center Matt Haarms, who is 7-foot-3, is a presence in the post averaging 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds as a starter. Junior forward Evan Boudreaux, who transferred from Dartmouth, provides another strong option off the bench (8.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG).

But, it all starts with junior guard Carsen Edwards. A potential National Player of the Year, Edwards is off to a strong start to the season at 25.5 points per game to lead the team while connecting on 39.4 percent of his three-point attempts.

Despite the attention he has received from others and will receive from Notre Dame, Edwards can still get his when he desires.

Edwards is joined in the backcourt by senior Ryan Cline (13.3 PGG, 3.1 RPG, 3.3 APG) and sophomore Nojel Eastern (5.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG). Senior forward Grady Eifert (4.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG) rounds out the starting unit.

Sophomore forward Aaron Wheeler (4.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG), sophomore guard Sasha Stefanovic (3.3 PPG) and freshman guard Eric Hunter Jr. (2.0 PPG) are the other top options off the bench for Painter.

GAME OUTLOOK

While Purdue sits at 6-4, that does not diminish the talent of the Boilermakers. The team’s four losses game to Virginia Tech (89-83), Florida State (73-72), Michigan (76-57) and Texas (72-680, which have a combined record of 32-5.

Purdue is averaging 77.1 points per game so far while allowing 67.6 defensively. Painter’s group has hit 45.1 percent of their field goal attempts and 37.1 percent behind the arc.

According to KenPom.com, Purdue is 10th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and 47th defensively.

This is going to be a tough matchup for Notre Dame in a building that hasn’t been kind to the Irish in recent years.

Prediction

Purdue 79, Notre Dame 70

I just don’t see this working out for the Irish. While I agree with Brey that Notre Dame did show some improvements during its road-stretch last week, the Irish have not shot well enough away from home to beat good teams. Purdue is a good team and slowing down Edwards will be no easy task.

The struggles for Notre Dame at Bankers Life Fieldhouse continue.

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