By JOHN BAUERNFEIND | IDS
POSTED AT 12:23 AM ON DEC. 13, 2013 (UPDATED AT 01:08 PM ON DEC. 13, 2013)
After two consecutive lopsided home wins, the IU men’s basketball team will face Notre Dame at 3:15 p.m. at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday.
The game is the first of two being played as part of the Crossroads Classic.
The Hoosiers (8-2) are facing a Notre Dame (7-3) team that is coming off of a 73-69 loss at home to North Dakota State Wednesday night. The Fighting Irish came into the season ranked No. 21, but have not been ranked since the second week of the season.
The last time these two teams played was in 2011, the first year of the Classic, and the meeting was a week after IU’s upset of No. 1 Kentucky — the biggest win of the Tom Crean era. Cody Zeller had a game high of 21 points as the Hoosiers defeated the Fighting Irish 69-58.
The only player on IU’s roster that played in that game is Will Sheehey, who managed only two points on one-of-seven shooting against the Irish.
On the other hand, Notre Dame has four players on its roster that played against Indiana two seasons ago. Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton and Tom Knight combined to score more than half of their team’s points in that game.
Three of those four players — Atkins, Grant, and Connaughton — have started every game for the Irish this season.
Grant leads the team in points and assists per contest with 18.7 and 6.1, while Connaughton leads the Irish in 3-point field goal percentage at 43.8 percent.
For the Hoosiers, Saturday’s game will mark its third game played on a neutral court this year. Up to this point, the Hoosiers are 1-1 on a neutral court, defeating Washington while losing to Connecticut in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Both teams go in to Saturday’s game averaging more than 81 points per game, with IU edging out Notre Dame 82.7 to 81.4 per game. The Fighting Irish also enter the game having made 80 3-pointers — 31 more than the Hoosiers have made this season.
IU, however, is averaging 48.2 rebounds per game, while Notre Dame averages 36.5 boards per game.
Graduate student guard Evan Gordon, who led the Hoosiers in scoring in each of its past two games, said the team has picked up its pace in its two most recent games, which has led to easy victories.
“I think we’re playing a little bit faster so we’re pushing the ball ahead, we’re throwing it ahead, and it’s creating two on ones, three on twos, and we’re able to just get an edge on the scoring a little bit,” Gordon said after the Hoosiers’ 81-54 romp of Oakland Tuesday night. “We’re going to the baseline and passing it all the way out, so the bigs are doing a good job throwing it back out, and we’re throwing it back in. “It’s touching the paint, and everybody is getting pretty good looks.”