Indiana is winning games at the foul line. Notre Dame doesn’t foul.
Indiana wants to push opponents out to the three point line. Notre Dame is winning games from behind the arc.
Indiana is one of the most efficient teams in the country scoring within two point-rage. Notre Dame is one of the best defending teams on two-point shots.
“We lead the nation in least amount of fouls. They lead the nation in most free throws attempted. Something has got to give,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said this week.
If the recent history between these programs is any indication, things will give, and the teams will meet somewhere in the middle.
“It’s a game within a game. Your style versus their style,” IU head coach Archie Miller said.
Indiana has trailed by double figures in its last two meetings with Notre Dame at The Crossroads Classic, but rallied late each time to pull out a tight ones down the stretch.
Another close one appears to be on tap in Indianapolis.
GAME DAY ESSENTIALS
Notre Dame (8-3) vs. Indiana (10-1) — The Crossroads Classic
- Tip time: Saturday / 12 p.m. ET
- Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Ind.
- Television: ESPN
- Series: Indiana leads 50-22 (Last meeting Indiana won 80-77 in 2017)
- Point Spread: Vegas likes Indiana by 3 points. KenPom likes IU by 3.
- Tickets (Seat Geek affiliate link)
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Notre Dame Statistical Leaders
- John Mooney (F) 14.8 ppg
- TJ Gibbs (G) 12.6 ppg
- Dane Goodwin (G) 11.7 ppg
- John Mooney (F) 13.4 rpg
- Juwan Durham (F) 6.4 rpg
- Prentiss Hubb (G) 4.7 apg
- TJ Gibbs (G) 3.8 apg
A look at No. 66 Notre Dame’s noteworthy KenPom metrics
- The Irish Don’t Turn it Over — Notre Dame only turns the ball over on 13.7 percent of its possessions. That’s good for second best in the country.
- The Irish Don’t Foul Either — ND opponent free throw attempts are only 18.2 percent of their field goal attempts. That’s also good for No. 2 nationally. Meanwhile the Irish don’t get to the line much themselves either. Their offense comes in at No. 261 for this metric.
- The Irish DO Share the Ball — Notre Dame assists on 66.6 percent of their baskets which puts them at No. 6 in the country.
- Live by the Three — 46 percent of Notre Dame’s field goal attempts are three-pointers. 39.5 percent of their points come from threes. Those marks are good for 25th and 27th nationally.
GUARDING THE PERIMETER A BIG CHALLENGE VS. IRISH
An early plan of attack against Indiana’s big lineups has been to space out the Hoosiers with five on the perimeter.
Nebraska, Wisconsin, Louisiana Tech and others have been able to do that with success against IU.
Look for more of the same on Saturday.
“They can really shoot the ball from typically five positions on the floor at times,” Miller said of Notre Dame.
Although Miller emphasizes hard closeouts on three-point shots in his pack-line scheme, success or failure guarding the perimeter comes earlier in the possession.
“Defending the three, really it comes down to a lot of things before they get the shot off,” Miller said. “You have to do a really good job in transition to eliminate the easy ones. That’s where teams get most of their threes. In the halfcourt, the better you are guarding the basketball, the better you are at doing a good job of containing the dribble-drive, that’s a second area where you don’t collapse your defense and give up a lot of threes in that area.”
Notre Dame has three forwards in its rotation that like to shoot the ball out on the perimeter, and IU’s big men have struggled at times when pulled out of the paint.
That’s where Miller saw things fall apart in their blowout loss to Wisconsin.
“If you take it back to the Wisconsin game, it was as poor of a communication and as poor of an execution defensively to start that game as we’ve had in terms of being able to understand how important defending the three is, especially from the front court, Miller said.
“We’re going to have to be much better in this game than we were a few weeks ago when we defended a couple of front court players that looked to stretch the floor throughout the game.”
IU redshirt junior forward Joey Brunk is one of those big men that has been pulled out to the perimeter and forced to defend, and he knows that aspect of the game is going to play a major role on Saturday.
“When you’re playing a team that has everybody that can shoot the ball and spread you out, you got to be really disciplined, be really sound in your principles. I think it’s going to be a great, great test for us again,” Brunk said.
Coupled with their ability to take care of the basketball, if Notre Dame can put together a strong shooting performance from long range it could spell trouble for the Hoosiers.
And if the Irish are getting wide open shots on Saturday it will be because something broke down along the way.
“You have to do some things that require intelligence and communication, some smarts,” Miller said. “That’s a big deal coming into this game with Notre Dame because if they hit the three, they’re not turning it over, they’re going to be tough to beat.”
MUFFLING MOONEY’S MOTOR
At 14.8 points and 13.4 rebounds per contest, Notre Dame’s John Mooney is a handful.
The senior forward’s rebounding total is the best in the country, and Miller believes Mooney has all the right attributes that can make someone a force on the glass.
“I think number one, he’s a very experienced player,” Miller said. “I think great rebounders have a knack for the ball, which he does. He also adds the element of great motor. He plays hard all the time. He’s going after it on both ends of the floor.
“He’s not one of those rebounders that’s up over the top of you. He’s angles, smelling the ball. He goes and gets the ball with two hands, too. A great two-handed rebounder. He’s got mitts, so to speak. When a ball hits his hands, it’s his ball.
“To lead America in rebounding, I don’t think a lot of people understand how hard that is. 13 rebounds a game is just an astonishing number.”
Mooney averages almost four offensive rebounds per game, and that is the area that Miller seems particularly focused on limiting.
“Got to try and do your best to keep him off the offensive glass the best you can, because he can shoot the ball, deals with a lot of switching at times, so he has guards on him because he can shoot the ball. It is to his advantage to rebound against mismatches at times. I think he gets you there a little bit,” Miller said.
Indiana will have to find a way to win in Indianapolis without Juwan Morgan, who had perhaps the best two games of his IU career at this event over the last two years at The Crossroads Classic.
In 2017 against Notre Dame, Morgan had 34 points and 11 rebounds in IU’s 80-77 overtime win.
Last year against Butler, Morgan went for 35 points, making 12-of-14 shots from the field and hitting all seven of his free throw attempts.
Morgan is currently with the Utah Jazz organization.
Note: Miller indicated that senior co-captain Devonte Green has been practicing this week and should play on Saturday. Green had a sore Achilles during the Nebraska game and could not finish that contest.
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