The #21 Notre Dame Fighting Irish took on the 15th ranked Purdue Boilermakers Saturday afternoon, as a part of the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers.
Saturday’s match marked the 43rd time the two Indiana rivals would face each other, but the first time both would play as nationally ranked teams. Since 1966, the Irish and the Boilermakers have played three times, with the Irish winning all of them.
The Boilermakers were looking for revenge against the Irish after an embarrassing 94-63 loss to them back in the 2014 Crossroads Classic.
Just like last weekend, Notre Dame dominated the first half but failed to maintain their lead. A late second half push by the Boilermakers would give the Irish their second straight loss of the season, losing 86-81.
Notre Dame had a tall task at hand as the Boilermakers clearly had a height advantage against the Irish, with 7 ft 2 Isaac Haas and 6 ft 9 Caleb Swanigan highlighting the Purdue front court.
The Irish needed a strong shooting performance from their top shooters in order to keep the ball away from the giants in the paint.
“For us to beat really good teams…our big four all have to play really well” stated Head Coach Mike Brey.
There were obvious parallels between Saturday afternoons game and last weekends matchup with the Villanova Wildcats. Both games include the Irish completely dominating the first half, spreading the floor, hitting their shots and going into the locker room ahead by double digit figures.
However the ‘Golden Domers’ seem to struggle in the second half as they have blown their first half leads in both games.
Notre Dame led by as much as 17 points in the first half after a monster slam dunk by VJ Beachem, as the Irish shot 60.6% from the field and 58.3% from beyond the arc.
Point Guard Matt Farrell continued to show his value and versatility on offence , carrying the Irish in the first half, dropping 12 points and dishing 7 assists before finishing the game with 22 points and 10 assists; recording his first double-double of his career.
Coming into the second half after a hot first half performance up 52-38, where they only committed three turnovers, the Notre Dame squad would lose their lead with under 11 minutes to go in the game.
The Irish committed seven turnovers in the second half and shot 38.2% from the field as well as went 1-8 from three point territory.
The Boilermakers would hold Irish standouts Steve Vasturia and VJ Beachem scoreless in the second half, with Vasturia only recording three points all game. Beachem would finish the game with 10 points and four rebounds.
Purdue would hold their lead and win the ball game 86-81.
Bonzie Colson had a solid performance as he showed great physicality against the Purdue giants, scoring majority of his 23 points in the paint despite his 6-5 height. Colson also grabbed 10 boards, recording a double-double.
Martinas Geben showed a flash of promise as the junior recorded a season high nine points and six rebounds in 22 minutes of playing time.
Coming off the bench, freshman TJ Gibbs showed great athleticism and was not afraid to take it to the hoop. Gibbs finished the day with seven points and two rebounds in 14 minutes.
After the game Irish head coach Mike Brey stated:
“Give Purdue credit, I thought they guarded the heck out of us in the second half…we didn’t do enough tough stuff in the paint…tough one to swallow.”
He further stated:
“We’re not in the league of the two high-level teams we played…we got a nice team, I love our team, we’re not in their league right now. We got some work to do before New Years Eve”.
The Irish will get a couple of days rest before returning home to play the (2-9) Colgate Raiders. Tip-off is set for 7 PM EST on Monday December 19th.
– R. Scarfone