Consistency and a balanced attack pushed Mike Brey’s Notre Dame basketball team over Purdue in the Crossroads Classic 88-80.
The biggest takeaway for this early season was that Notre Dame was talented, but the young team hadn’t learned how to win just yet. With losses to Radford, Oklahoma and UCLA all by a combined 11 points, it was the learning curve the Irish had to overcome.
It was hard to look at Notre Dame in their back-to-back losses and say they hadn’t been getting better. They looked more comfortable and confident on the floor each time. Against Purdue, they may have put together their best performance of the season.
It wasn’t the defense that had Irish fans worried. Rather, it was the offense that looked confused at times. This is something that you never would have figured was ever a problem against Purdue. In this one, Notre Dame did almost everything right.
As expected, Carsen Edwards came out and did it all for Purdue with his 27 points and four three-pointers. But Edwards didn’t get much help.
For the Irish, it was a balanced attack that lead them to victory.
D.J. Harvey ditched the leg sleeve that he had been wearing on his injured knee and instantly took over early. It took consistency and patience in the early going as Notre Dame hit eight shots in a row, but couldn’t find much separation with a narrow 18-16 lead.
Strong free throw shooting and efficiency from the floor was the leading cause of Notre Dame’s 12-point lead in the first half. A bigger reason for their success was the senior leader Rex Pflueger doing all the dirty work.
Distracting the defense and finding the open man many times, the offense ran through him. With his head up, Pflueger racked up ten assists on the day. The dirty work ended up taking a toll on his body as the senior went down with a knee injury. He did return to the bench for the final minutes of the game with his knee heavily wrapped. After the game, Mike Brey mentioned that the Irish fear the worst–that Pflueger tore his ACL.
Notre Dame maintained the lead for the entire second half due to their next man up mentality. When the offense wasn’t able to work through Harvey, it was Temple Gibbs knocking down clutch three-pointers. When it wasn’t Gibbs it was John Mooney turning into a killer.
The recently named captain earned his 21-points from every part of the court. Mooney shot three-of-three from downtown, six-of-eight overall and six-of-seven from the line.
Purdue tried everything the could in the final minutes of the game, but Notre Dame’s consistency was what they needed to cap off their impressive performance.