Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - For the first time since 1966, the Notre
Dame Fighting Irish and the Purdue Boilermakers will meet in the regular
season when the two square off at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on
Saturday afternoon in the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic.
Notre Dame has been red hot to start the season, winning eight of its first
nine contests, with its only loss coming on a neutral floor to Saint Joseph's
on Nov. 16 (79-70 in OT). The Irish have since ripped off six consecutive
wins, most recently downing Brown at home last Saturday, 84-57.
Purdue has had a much more up-and-down start to the season, as it has yet to
register three straight wins or three straight losses. The Boilermakers had
won three of four games, highlighted by a victory at Clemson on Nov. 28
(73-61), but they fell back below .500 last Saturday with a disappointing loss
at Eastern Michigan, 47-44.
The all-time series between these two in-state rivals is split right down the
middle, with each side winning 20 games. The Irish won the last meeting,
71-59, in the 2004 NIT.
The Fighting Irish have been well balanced through the first month of the
season, shooting 49 percent from the floor (14th in the nation) in netting
73.8 ppg, while holding their opponents to 37.5 percent field goal efficiency
and only 58.3 ppg. They put forth one of their most dominant performances of
the young season the last time out against Brown, shooting 34-of-68 (.500)
from the field in claiming the 27-point victory. Cameron Biedscheid scored 17
points off the bench to pace five UND players in double figures. Jack Cooley
(15 points, 12 rebounds) and Eric Atkins (10 points, 12 assists) both had
double-doubles, while Scott Martin added 14 points and eight boards and Jerian
Grant finished with 12 points, seven assists and four steals. Cooley has been
one of the best forwards in the nation this year, scoring 14.2 ppg on better
than 60 percent shooting from the field, adding 11.3 rpg and 1.6 bpg for good
measure. Grant (12.9 ppg, 5.1 apg) and Atkins (10.9 ppg, 7.0 apg) are both
excellent ball-handlers who shoot better than 40 percent from 3-point range.
Garrick Sherman (10.1 ppg) provides a spark off the bench.
Purdue hasn't been especially great at the offensive end of the court (.416
field goal percentage, 66.6 ppg), but it was especially bad in its latest loss
at EMU, connecting on a mere 29.8 percent from the field, committing more
turnovers (18) than it had field goals (14) en route to its lowest point total
of the season. Terone Johnson played well in defeat, logging 12 points and
eight boards. Ronnie Johnson added 11 points and six rebounds, while A.J.
Hammons recorded 11 points, seven boards and four blocked shots. On the
season, only Terone Johnson averages double digits with 13.0 ppg, although he
puts up lackluster percentages from the field (.404) and from the foul line
(.594). A.J. Hammons (9.3 ppg) leads the rebounding effort with 6.0 per tilt,
and Purdue is one of the strongest rebounding teams in the country, grabbing
nearly 12 more boards per contest than its opponents.
The Sports Network