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Rivalries Renewed at Third Annual Crossroads Classic

Chris Fultz
ISR Butler Beat Writer

Crossroads Classic
Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 3:15 p.m. (ET)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Indianapolis, Ind.
Dave O’Brien (play-by-play)
Dan Dakich (analyst)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN– The magic that is the Crossroads Classic will once again come to life in what will be a full day of basketball in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Indiana Hoosiers and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will meet in the first game of this year’s Classic at 3:15 p.m.  The Butler Bulldogs will make the five-mile trek to Bankers Life to take on the Purdue Boilermakers in the 2013 Crossroads Classic on Saturday, Dec. 14. The two Indiana foes will square off in the second game of the one-day basketball event at 6 p.m. (ET). It’s the third straight year that the four teams have gathered in Indianapolis for the popular basketball doubleheader, which grew out of conversations among the athletic directors at the four schools.

Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant, top, and Purdue forward D.J. Byrd go for a loose ball in the first half. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant, top, and Purdue forward D.J. Byrd go for a loose ball in the first half. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Notre Dame and Indiana met in the first year of the event in 2011 with the Hoosiers earning a 69-58 victory in 2011. Last year, the Irish played Purdue and defeated the Boilermakers 81-68. Notre Dame and Indiana will be meeting for the 70th time on Saturday afternoon and for just the second time since November of 2008. The Hoosiers lead the all-time series 48-21. Notre Dame has won two of the last three meetings. The matchup will be the 10th ever between the two schools in Indianapolis. Prior to the 2011 meeting, the last game played between the two schools in Indianapolis was during the 1959-60 season at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse. Notre Dame is 2-7 against Indiana in Indianapolis. Head coach Mike Brey is 2-4 against the Hoosiers during his Notre Dame tenure. Notre Dame heads into the contest coming off a 73-69 setback at home to North Dakota State. Senior point guard Eric Atkins’ career assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.41 ranks first among all active Division I players, while teammate Jerian Grant’s 2.38 mark ranks him second. Ohio State’s Aaron Craft is third on the list (2.28).

Although the Irish lost their last game at home, they will be sure to bring their best against the Hoosiers. The Hoosiers are coming off an 81-54 win over Oakland at home on Tuesday night. The Hoosiers will rely on Freshman Noah Vonleh, who has been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times and is one of 50 players listed on the Wooden Award Preseason Watch List and Naismith Award Early Season Watch List. He also leads all freshmen nationally in rebounds per 40 minutes at 17.3 per game. There is no doubt that the Hoosiers will be riding the hot hand of Evan Gordon. In the last two games, graduate transfer Evan Gordon is averaging 20.5 points and is shooting 81.0 percent from the field (17-21) and 71.4 percent from long distance (5-7) and had a season-high 26 points in the win over Oakland. He also is averaging 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals in those two games. He had 15 points off the bench against North Florida. IU defeated Notre Dame, 69-58, in the first Crossroads Classic two seasons, ago.

The Purdue Boilermakers are looking for their first win in the event. Two years ago in 2011, Butler edged the Boilermakers, 67-65, while last year, No. 22-ranked Notre Dame topped Purdue, 81-68. Matt Painter is 0-2 against Butler, falling to the Bulldogs in the 2011-12 season (67-65) and in the 2006-07 campaign (68-65). Both of the games have been played in Indianapolis. Purdue leads the all-time series with Butler by a 37-16 advantage, but it has been Butler getting the best of the series lately, winning three games in a row by a combined 11 points. Purdue hasn’t defeated the Bulldogs since December 1998.

Purdue enters the Crossroads Classic having won three games in a row, a blowout victory in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge against Boston College sandwiched between five-point wins over Siena (Dec. 1) and Eastern Michigan (Dec. 7). The Boilermakers’ lone losses have come to then-No. 5 ranked Oklahoma State (97-87) and Washington State (69-54) on back-to-back days in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla As a team, the Boilermakers are averaging 79.7 points per game and connecting on 45.6 percent of their field goal attempts so far. Defensively, Purdue is giving up 71.4 points per game and foes are shooting 40.8 percent against the Boilermaker defense.

Kameron Woods versus Purdue at the 2011 Crossroads Classic. (Photo by John Fetcho)
Kameron Woods versus Purdue at the 2011 Crossroads Classic. (Photo by John Fetcho)

Purdue is winning the battle of the boards by just 1.0 rebounds per game, but has forced 29 more turnovers and scored 42 more points off turnovers than its opponent. Senior Terone Johnson leads a balanced offensive attack with a team-bsest 12.8 scoring average, while sophomore and little brother, Ronnie Johnson, averages 11.9 points and a team-best 4.0 assists per game. Freshman Bryson Scott is third on the team in scoring at 10.4 points per game. Sophomore A.J. Hammons is yanking down a team-best 6.7 rebounds per game and ranks fifth nationally in blocked shots, averaging 4.0 per game.

The Bulldogs won back-to-back home games over a three-day stretch last weekend. Butler started the homestand with a 15-point win over North Dakota on Saturday night and then finished the sweep with its victory over Manchester 48 hours later. The two wins boosted the Bulldogs to 6-0 in Indiana this season. Sophomore Kellen Dunham posted his highest homecourt scoring performance with 29 points to lead Butler past North Dakota, and then he paced a balanced attack with a game-high 15 points against Manchester. Senior Khyle Marshall chipped in with 21 points in the first win and 14 in the second. Butler defeated Purdue, 67-65, in the initial Crossroads Classic in 2011, and then the Bulldogs beat top-ranked Indiana, 88-86 in overtime, at last year’s event. The Bulldogs are coming off back-to-back home wins over North Dakota, 79-64, and Manchester, 100-41.

The two victories lifted Butler to 7-2 on the young season. Purdue won it last outing over Eastern Michigan, 69-64, to improve to 8-2 on the year. Butler and Purdue will be meeting for the 55th time as basketball opponents. The Bulldogs have won the last three meetings between the two teams, including two straight encounters at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Chris Fultz is the Butler beat writer for the Indy Sports Report. Follow Chris and the Indy Sports Report on Twitter.