INDIANAPOLIS – Sasha Stefanovic made five 3-pointers and scored 18 points and Eric Hunter Jr. added 18 more points to lead Purdue past Notre Dame 88-78 at the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis this afternoon.
- Purdue is dangerous offensively: The Boilermakers had their best offensive performance of the season in the first 15 minutes of this contest and their final numbers were pretty impressive, as well. They moved the ball well and got production from all over the roster, with Stefanovic getting hot from the outside, Trevion Williams and Zach Edey scoring almost at will down low and eight players scoring baskets in the first half. This team can beat you in so many ways offensively when it's clicking and it's a group filled with very unselfish players. Brandon Newman took a tough, step-back jumper in the first half and it left coach Matt Painter shaking his head in disgust, but that was such an anomaly as to be memorable and Newman pretty good overall. Purdue moves well without the ball and works well inside-out, using Williams' and Edey's dominance to create open shots for Stefanovic et al.
- Purdue needs a small lineup: Purdue's biggest advantage over most teams is its talented big men and that was true again against Notre Dame today. However, the Boilermakers get in trouble when Williams and Edey are both in foul trouble, as they were late in the first half. Notre Dame was able to rattle off 10 straight points against a smaller Purdue lineup with Aaron Wheeler at the 5 and Painter even tried to put Edey back on the court for a boost, only for the 7-foot-4 freshman to pick up his third foul immediately. That small lineup is a group that is probably going to have to get some run in the Big Ten season against bigs that can shoot from the outside, because neither Williams nor Edey is great at defending those types of players. Notre Dame took advantage of that vulnerability and better conference opponents will do so, as well.
- Purdue closed: The key moment of the game with 14:30 left. The Irish had just drilled three straight 3-pointers for a 9-0 run that knotted the score at 53. It was a similar situation to the one Purdue faced against Miami (Florida) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, when it was unable to right the ship and let a 20-point lead get away. This time, the Boilermakers responded, resoundingly. Eric Hunter Jr., who was a spark in the second half, drained a 3-pointer, Mason Gillis added one and Stefanovic laid the ball in on a rare drive for him and suddenly Purdue had answered a 9-0 run with nine straight points of its own. After a Notre Dame 3, the Boilers scored seven more in a row to push the lead back to 13 and held on at the end. It was nice to see Purdue show some resiliency against a team that was fired up when it was able to draw even. That seems like growth.
Player of the Game: Eric Hunter Jr.
The junior point guard played a terrific all-around game, finishing with a career-high eight assists, five rebounds and tnree steals to go along with his point total. He made arguably the biggest shot of the game to put Purdue up 56-53 after Notre Dame had tied it and his steals all came in the first four minutes of the second half to help the Boilermakers get off to a good start defensively after halftime. He went 4 for 7 from beyond the 3-point line.
Despite the win, Purdue has the worst record of any of the four teams at the Crossroads Classic. The Boilermakers are 3-7 in the event. ... Purdue guard Jaden Ivey is the son of Notre Dame women's basketball coach Niele Ivey and grew up around the Notre Dame program when his mother was an assistant coach with the Irish. Ivey had four points on 2-for-5 shooting in his second game back from a stress fracture in his foot. ... Purdue is 16-2 against teams from Indiana since the start of the 2016-17 season. ... Boilers big man Trevion Williams came into the game one of 11 players in the country averaging a double-double in at least six games played. He'd averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in his last two games. The preseason All-Big Ten center scored 14 points and had seven rebounds today. ... Mason Gillis had 12 points on 4 for 4 from the field, including nine points and eight rebounds (nine overall) in the second half. ... Purdue was 14 for 28 from beyond the arc. Notre Dame was 16 for 41. ... The Boilermakers held a 13-5 advantage in points off turnovers. ... Trey Wertz led Notre Dame with 27 points.
The Boilermakers are back in action Tuesday, when they'll return to Big Ten play to face their biggest test of the young season: a road matchup against No. 3 Iowa (6-0) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. The game will tip off at 9 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. Iowa already has a 93-80 win over North Carolina under its belt and is led by reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Luka Garza, who is the leading candidate for National Player of the Year at this point. Garza is averaging 29 points and nine rebounds this season. The Hawkeyes lost 99-88 to No. 1 Gonzaga earlier today.