The Journal Gazette
Saturday, December 19, 2020 11:00 am

Pregame: Purdue (5-2) vs. Notre Dame (2-3)

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Purdue has not had much success at the Crossroads Classic. The Boilermakers have easily the worst record of the four teams at the event, going 2-7 in the first nine years.

Sometimes, those losses serve as a valuable lesson and a prelude to better things, as a defeat against Notre Dame did in 2019, when the Boilermakers rattled off 17 wins in 20 games immediately following the loss to capture a Big Ten title. Other times, like last season's ugly loss to Butler in which the Boilermakers shot just 27% from 2-point range, presage a down season. 

If Purdue – maybe the most successful of these programs overall since the event began in 2011 – is ever going to gain its footing in the Crossroads Classic, it would happen this year; the Boilermakers are favored against a young Notre Dame that is still figuring out what it can be. Purdue is coming off a big win over No. 20 Ohio State in its most recent matchup that was arguably its best overall performance of the season and its young players are rapidly gaining confidence. It also helps that preseason All-Big Ten big man Trevion Williams has played like a superstar in the last two games, averaging 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a pair of Boilermaker victories after a very slow start to the year.

Notre Dame won't just roll over for Purdue, however. If the Irish are anything at this point, it is battle-tested. Notre Dame has played three ranked opponents in its five games and has also taken on (and beaten) a talented Kentucky team that is a good bet to return to the rankings before season's end. The Irish are just 2-3, but their losses are against Michigan State, Ohio State and Duke, none of which is anything to be embarrassed about, although they were nearly run off the court against the Spartans. 

Prentiss Hubb is the star of this team, a volume shooter who is scoring 19.4 points per contest. He's dangerous from 3-point range (better than 40%), but he can be a little bit of a ball-stopper. He has help from 6-foot-6 junior guard Dane Goodwin, who scored 25 points against Duke and is hitting 47% from 3-point range and 52% overall. The Irish are looking for more from 6-11 Juwan Durham, who has been somewhat quiet to this point.

A juicy subplot of this game is Purdue freshman guard Jaden Ivey playing against the school where his mother, Niele Ivey, is the women's basketball coach. He grew up around the Irish program and even played pickup with the men's team during the summer when he was in high school. He's only in his second game back from a stress fracture in his foot, but he looked to be in good shape against Ohio State and could play a significant role today. He did look a little bit too energetic against the Buckeyes, air-balling two 3-pointers before settling down, and he'll have to keep his adrenaline in check today.

This is a game the Boilermakers should win and it could provide a nice NCAA Tournament resume boost later in the season if Notre Dame improves down the stretch. Coach Matt Painter says he likes to see his team exposed in this event, but it seems relatively unlikely the Irish are capable of doing that at this this point in the season.

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily