One week after seeing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s hoops team finally start to look like a Mike Brey squad again in their easy victory over the UCLA Bruins, ND fans were treated to another classic Notre Dame performance: blowing it at the end of a Crossroads Classic game.
The Irish got down BIG in their match-up with the then-10-1 Indiana Hoosiers, but then mounted a stirring comeback to seize control of the game, and a 5-point lead, with less than 4 minutes to play. Unfortunately, just like games against IU in 2015 and 2017 (and against Purdue in 2016), the Irish choked away their lead down the stretch, falling 62-60 in the final 20 seconds after the Hoosiers were able to hit a big shot that the Irish were not.
(un)Luckily, I (Pat Rick) was in attendance at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for this wild roller coaster ride of a game, so please enjoy below my too-detailed recounting of the exciting and disappointing game between the Irish and Hoosiers.
This was my second time getting media credentials for the Crossroads Classic, as I got to cover the game two years ago when Austin Torres couldn’t make free throws (no surprise) and when the Irish couldn’t block out Juwan Morgan (also not that surprising, TBH) and the Hoosiers won 80-77 in overtime.
This time, I decided to play up the media credentials thing a bit more and first visited the Media Room before heading to my seat. There were a bunch of people in there and I had to hold myself back from shouting “GOOOTTTTT IIIIIIIIT!” at Jack Nolan in-person, but I was disappointed that there wasn’t really any food or anything provided for the media. It looked like there were maybe some donuts and water, but as someone who really wanted some coffee, that was a bit of a wasted trip. So, I then headed back out to go find my seat.
On my way to my seat, I walked by the IU team in the tunnel getting ready to run out onto the court and warm up, and I gotta tell you guys — they were ALL taller than me. That’s my big observation on the Hoosiers team.
As I settled into my seat — which was much closer to the court than it was two years ago, let’s gooooo — the Notre Dame band that made the trip to Indy was already playing “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. This, of course, got me going a bit, but I began to worry that it was way too early to be playing such an important song. In retrospect, this was certainly a harbinger of the highs, and then lows, to come.
As the band moved on to playing “Wagon Wheel,” I began looking at the materials they give the media with player stats, series history, etc., and noticed they also provide a pronunciation guide for any names on both teams that may be difficult to know how to pronounce. To my delight, it included the below pronunciation guides:
- Pflueger = “floo-grr”
- Nikola Djogo = “knee-cola joe-go”
You can bet your ass I’ll be calling those guys Floo-Grr and Knee-Cola Joe-Go the rest of the season, without a doubt.
The Notre Dame band moved on to playing the Irish Jig, which again seemed like a weird pre-game choice. Indeed, I don’t think I saw any ND fans doing the jig, but instead a few IU band members seemed to be getting into it — which I guess is pretty great.
As other media members began to arrive at their seats with tip-off fast approaching, I must note that the super nice man next to me brought both a mouse and a mouse pad to work with, which is awesome and such a power move. He basically made his little media seat his home office, and I’m hoping he progressively makes it more and more elaborate of a setup as the year goes on, wheeling in his own office chair and a huge monitor and maybe some framed pictures of his family or something.
Finally, they got to introducing the starting lineups and playing all the pump-up videos and whatnot, and I feel the need to say that we have NOT talked enough about how good of a name Prentiss Hubb is. That’s a top-flight name and we need to give it its due respect, ASAP.
Final pregame observation: when they announced Mike Brey as the ND coach and showed him on the video board, he was just standing there on the sideline with his hands in his pockets, looking like someone who got to a party early and knows no one there, or perhaps the one person he knows there just left him there to use the bathroom. He looked lost and bewildered and honestly, the way this team plays a lot of the time, I cannot blame the man at all.
This game began just as most of the game would go, with Indiana slowly building a lead and the Irish looking hapless a lot of the time. After a scoreless first minute-and-a-half of play, IU forward Joey Brunk got things started with a bucket, and was quickly joined by Trayce Jackson-Davis in the “has scored in this game” club, as TJD got himself a bucket on a nice move he put on Nate Laszewski in the post.
Devonte Green soon drained a three pointer, and the Hoosiers had a 7-0 lead heading into the first media timeout. Once action resumed, John Mooney managed to hit precisely one (1) free throw, ending the Hoosiers’ hopes of a shutout.
Jackson-Davis scored again to make it 9-1 with 15:10 to play, and Irish fans all over let out a sigh and said “here we go again” to themselves. However, ND recovered nicely from this bad start, and despite T.J. Gibbs briefly going out with a rolled ankle, they chipped away at the deficit until a nice give-and-go between Juwan Durham and John “John Mutton” Mooney made it 13-10
IU pushed their score to 15 after a second-chance bucket, and it should be noted that this was a major issue all game. The Irish STRUGGLED to get one-and-done stops, as IU’s frontcourt of Brunk, Jackson-Davis, and Justin Smith did a great job of snaring missed shots and giving the Hoosiers multiple chances to score on most possessions.
ND’s Durham took a page out of that book a few times in this game too, though, as he pulled down a very impressive offensive board to give John Mutton the opportunity to draw a foul and knock down 1 of 2 free throws. The next possession, Rex Pflueger (Rex Floo-Grr) found Durham for a gorgeous alley-oop, cutting the Hoosiers’ lead to 2. Unfortunately, Jackson-Davis, a blue-chip, 5-star prospect in the last recruiting class for a reason, scored again, giving IU a 17-13 lead at the 8-minute mark.
Juwan Durham, though, continued to be the only Notre Dame player who came to play in the early going, and he managed to get three points the old fashioned away to make it a 17-16 ballgame. Of course, per usual, that was short-lived, as IU freshman guard Armaan Franklin — a local Indy kid who just so happens to have attended the alma mater of one Pat Rick — drained the first of what would be 4 made threes for him in this game.
The next possession, after the Hoosiers got a steal, Franklin rose up to shoot another three in transition, this time drawing a foul on the shot and hitting all three of his free throws. Suddenly, in about 30 seconds of time, the Hoosiers led 23-16.
On the other end, the Irish were at the line shooting two free throws, and I only mention that so that I can talk about the Indiana Hoosiers fans immediately to my right in this game. This one fan — a big, very Indiana-looking, corn-fed man — would bark like a dog every time ND was at the free throw line. However, let me be clear that it wasn’t a deep, intimidating bark he was executing from his seat just above the lower level.
Nay, this man was...yipping? Like a small dog. Loudly, but not loud enough for the Irish to hear as they shoot, either. I am not exaggerating when I say that everyone around me was chuckling to themselves as this man yipped and yapped to his heart’s content. It was awesome.
Pumped for another half of the IU fan to my right barking (yipping?) like a small dog whenever ND shoots free throws.— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 21, 2019
That wasn't sarcasm, I love it so much
Anyway, it seemed to occasionally work, as the Irish finished the game 12-for-17 from the charity stripe. So hats off to that fan, for proving that the crowd can truly influence games!!!!
Another note: at one point, John Mutton badly missed a three pointer (it bricked off the side of the rim) and this same fan tried to start an “Airball” chant, which I truly appreciate, considering it wasn’t an airball.
As the first half wound down, the Hoosiers pushed their lead further with another Franklin three pointer (making it 32-20 with 2:25 to go) and with the Irish being unable to hit water if they were to fall out of a boat.
During a timeout just before the half, the two schools’ respective pom squads came out onto the court to perform TOGETHER, and I gotta say it was incredibly festive, what with the green Irish squad and the red and white Hoosier squad dancing together. It would have been much better if they’d danced to some Mariah Carey, though.
IU took a 34-23 lead into halftime.
- Notre Dame: Juwan Durham led the way with 7 points and 3 rebounds, and both John Mutton (6 points, 3 rebounds) and Nate Laszewski (6 points, 5 rebounds) chipped in as well. The Irish shot very poorly in the first half, making 28% overall and just 13% (2-for-15) from three
- Indiana: Armaan Franklin led the Hoosiers in scoring with 9 points (2-for-2 from three), and IU also got help from Joey Brunk’s 8 points and 11 (!!!) rebounds and Trayce Jackson-Davis’ 6 points. The Hoosiers shot 47% from the field and 33% from three, and out-rebounded the Irish 26-14 in the first half
"Fans, check out the video board for today's first half highlights!"— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 21, 2019
*10 clips of Joey Brunk grabbing nice rebounds*
Folks, the halftime show for this game was just as exceptional as last week’s, because it was almost exactly the same thing.
Two straight Saturdays where I get to see a jump rope team perform at halftime of a college basketball game. I am SO #blessed— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 21, 2019
The Indy Air Bears Jump Rope Team performed on Saturday at Bankers Life, and they were essentially a more polished version of the Notre Dame Jump Rope Team.
Honestly, I think I prefer the ND team, as there was a little more chaos and intrigue with their occasional small mistakes. This Air Bears team of younger children was so good it was scary, but also took some of the excitement away from it. I see it like the NBA and college hoops — obviously the NBA is the superior basketball product, but I love NCAA basketball due to all the variable factors that can lead to ridiculous, unexpected results. I think of these two jump rope performances the same way.
I will say, I loved the incorporation of what I guess, upon some Google searches, are called Pogo Balls? These kids were bouncing on those and jumping rope simultaneously, and that was pretty sweet.
One final note/observation/question: can someone tell me why the thing to do, after completing a jump rope trick in performances like these, is to wave to the crowd before running away? Is there some sort of standard of jump rope etiquette or rules that require each and every jump roper to wave to the crowd after their trick?
I think I may incorporate that into my job, waving to the crowd any time I finish doing some work in Microsoft Excel or anytime I complete a set of Powerpoint slides. I will report back on how that goes, folks.
The second half started out just about as poorly as it possibly could, with the Hoosiers building on their lead and the Irish looking like they were de-motivated by Coach Brey in the halftime locker room. The Hoosiers led 40-25 at the 16-minute mark, and we Irish fans began getting desperate.
breaking news, Mike Brey just said he is planning on playing a new player this half...someone named Conzie Bolson. Not sure who that is but am excited, he looks pretty good— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 21, 2019
Notre Dame simply wasn’t playing good defense, allowing tons of easy shots for the Hoosiers. Add in that the Irish couldn’t buy a basket, and much of the first few minutes of the half went something like this:
ND with a great start to the half, losing Trayce Jackson-Davis and allowing him to have a wide open dunk— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 21, 2019
As a continuation of the first half, Juwan Durham appeared to be the only ND player who was bringing it and competing. He pulled down a big offensive rebound with the Irish down 17 that led to a Dane Goodwin corner three, making it 44-30 with 15 minutes to go. That was also Goodwin’s first basket of the game, and getting him going would CERTAINLY be key for the Irish in the final 15 minutes.
After a Joey Brunk-to-Trayce-Jackson-Davis alley-oop to make it 46-30, we were treated to a timeout and a Dance Cam that featured our favorite yipping IU fan and his cronies all out of their seats, dancing like everyone was watching. It was amazing.
Also, they were showing people’s tweets about being at the game, and for some reason the one below caught my eye.
Walked from the #HamptonInn all the way to #CrossroadsClassic GO IRISH pic.twitter.com/e1FkUDMr45— Montilla (@srshuler1) December 21, 2019
I looked it up, that’s about a 4-minute walk. Love this.
After Gibbs found Goodwin for a bucket, and Hubb knocked down a long two, the Irish were starting to make a tiny bit of a dent in their massive deficit. IU got an and-one to temporarily halt their momentum, but John Mutton drained a corner three with 11 minutes to go, making it a 48-38 game. That was absolutely wild to think about at the time, considering how poorly ND was shooting/playing and how much it felt like IU was blowing them out.
Hubb makes a long two and somehow this is only a 10-point game?— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 21, 2019
IU seems due for a wide open dunk
During the under-12 timeout, they showed Victor Oladipo on the big screen, as he was there to watch his alma mater IU in his now home arena. I only mention this because my guy Vic had some huge jug of blue drink (some sort of sports drink?) with him, which looked so funny and out of place. It made me laugh.
Back to the action, Laszewski showed some much-needed attacking mentality for the Irish, driving to the hoop and drawing a foul, hitting both free throws to make it 48-40 with less than 10 minutes to play.
After an IU turnover, Dane Goodwin began to really heat up, draining a three with a hand in his face. Suddenly, the once down-and-out Irish were down just 5 with 9 minutes still to play, which, again, was absolutely wild to think about.
IU turnover, then Goodwin with the three!!!! What is happening?!?— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 21, 2019
48-43 now, folks. Timeout IU.
Goodwin took and missed a heat-check three on the next possession, but after an Irish steal on the other end, he got a bucket in transition, making it 48-45. On that play, though, Rex Floo-Grr ended up limping off the court with an apparent leg injury, scaring all Irish fans who remember his ACL tear on this very court just one year prior. He would return soon after, as it was just a strained groin.
Devonte Green of IU finally stopped the bleeding a bit with a nice turnaround jumper, but John Mutton immediately followed that up with a dunk on the other end, keeping the pressure on the Hoosiers. Another IU basket made it 52-47 with 6:56 to go, and around that time is when the Irish kicked it up another notch and took over.
Goodwin drained a deep two, and then the Irish forced a shot clock violation by the Hoosiers. After another IU bucket, John Mutton made a three that bounced around the rim multiple times, making it 54-52 and bringing the small contingent of ND fans in attendance to their feet. After another stop by the Irish, Goodwin, now feeling it after his scoring run earlier, pulled up in transition and buried another three, giving the Irish a 55-54 lead with 4:59 to go. IU called a timeout as Goodwin gave a primal scream at mid-court, flexing a bit after having scored 15 points in the second half to will the Irish into the lead.
That shot seemed to give the entire team life (as well as some media members), and suddenly the Irish looked as confident as we’ve seen them this year. Prentiss Hubb split a couple defenders with some fancy dribbling and made a gorgeous up-and-under basket to push the ND lead to 3 with 3:42 to play, and then John Mutton drew a foul and knocked down both shots to make it 59-54.
That was the high point of the game for Notre Dame, as the Hoosiers collected themselves and showed why they had controlled most of the game besides this run by the Irish. After a John Mutton travel, Franklin drained a three.
Goodwin got called for a charge on an aggressive drive to the hoop, but the Hoosiers failed to score on the other end with multiple chances to do so. ND, however, once again failed to grab the defensive rebound, and with 1:05 to play, Indiana managed to get Trayce Jackson-Davis another little dunk to tie it all up.
Prentiss Hubb had himself a nice little drive to the hoop, drawing a blocking foul. However, he hit only one of two, meaning IU had the ball, down 60-59, with ~45 seconds to go.
Unfortunately for the Irish, Armaan Franklin, at this point in the game, only had 14 points and had only made 3 three-pointers. As I said earlier, the true frosh hit 4 in this game and he finished with 17 points, so you can imagine what happened next.
Franklin got free in the corner near the end of the shot clock, rose up in the NBA arena in his hometown, and knocked down what would prove to be the game-winning three with 15.7 seconds to go.
Buried it. @unkle44artty | #IUBB pic.twitter.com/I3UpqKVXE1— Indiana Basketball (@IndianaMBB) December 22, 2019
Of course, the Irish had a chance to tie or beat the Hoosiers on the ensuing possession, but after a timeout, John Mutton failed to pass to a backdoor-cutting Goodwin for what would have been an easy bucket, instead driving to the hoop and missing a contested shot at point-blank range. The Hoosiers missed the free throw they got after ND fouled, and a desperate, half-court heave from Floo-Grr missed wide left, ending the game and leaving the Irish completely spent and quite downtrodden, considering the emotional, inspired comeback they had pulled off earlier.
- Notre Dame: Dane Goodwin led the way with 15 points (6-of-12 shooting), and John Mutton added his typical double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds. Nate Laszewski had himself a quiet little double-double himself, putting up 10 and 10 on the day. Of note are the stats of starting guards T.J. Gibbs and Prentiss Hubb, who went a combined 4-for-14 shooting for 9 points. Overall, the team shot 37.5% from the field and 22% from three and went 12-of-17 (71%) from the free throw line
- Indiana: Armaan Franklin’s 17 points was the high for either team in this game, as the freshman hit 4-of-5 threes and went 5-of-6 from the field overall. Trayce Jackson-Davis added 14 points and 7 boards, Joey Brunk had 9 points and 14 rebounds, and Devonte Green chipped in 11 points of his own. The Hoosiers shot 41% from the field, 29% from deep, and 7-of-12 from the free throw line. IU also out-rebounded the Irish 42 to 32
- This loss was legitimately heart-wrenching. Just as this team started to build some confidence (albeit against horrible Detroit Mercy and UCLA teams), they came out and played horribly for 25-30 minutes in a big match-up against a likely tournament team on national TV. The Irish could have really used a legitimate resume-building win in non-conference play, so the fact they could (and probably should) have stolen this win after their 29-10 2nd half run is frustrating as hell
- With that said, I can’t help but still have some blind, low-levl optimism about this team. They were down 17 in the second half against a good team in what was essentially a road environment, and refused to lie down and die. Instead, the fire shown by Goodwin and Mooney and Durham and Laszewski was awesome, and definitely something to build on. This team can play with people if they bring it
- Can we just end the Crossroads Classic already? It almost always goes poorly for ND, prevents the Irish from scheduling other decent teams in the non-conference schedule, and is basically just a road game where the Irish try to beat IU or Purdue in front of a crowd that heavily favors them. Screw this and the disappointment it almost annually brings us Irish fans
- The starting backcourt of a Mike Brey team simply can’t be as irrelevant as Gibbs and Hubb were in this one and have been in other games. If I’m Brey, I think long and hard about switching up the starting lineup somehow. I know Brey is loyal to a fault with his upperclassmen and thus won’t want to bring Gibbs off the bench, but you’d have to think ND might be able to get off to faster starts in big games if Goodwin is in there from the jump. Goodwin, in my opinion, has been the best player on the team this season — with all respect to John Mutton, who has been as reliably good as ever, but is limited in what he can do compared to Goodwin, who I think is more dynamic and definitely more skilled offensively. And if Brey doesn’t want to move Gibbs to the bench, put Hubb there and have Gibbs move back to point guard and focus on setting up Mooney, Goodwin, and Durham for buckets, which is something he can definitely do well
- Before he got in foul trouble and had to sit for much of the second half, I loved what I was seeing from Durham. He was not only showing some offensive ability with a few first half buckets, but he was blocking a shot or two and standing strong on the boards against a frontcourt that was simply bigger and stronger than him. If he can be a little more consistent and stay out of foul trouble, I could really see him improving as this year moves on and being a key guy in 2020-2021
- I don’t have any pipe dreams about this ND team making the NCAA Tournament (although I DO think they have enough talent to do so — unlike what others might say, I think consistency and mental toughness are this team’s issues, not natural ability), but I do think they’ve shown enough so far to make me believe that, unlike last year, this group will catch fire once or twice and pull off a big upset or two in conference play (in between some likely disappointing/embarrassing losses, too). Do NOT be surprised to see the Irish take down a heavily favored opponent at Purcell as Dane Goodwin drops 30 points on them or Nate Laszewski hits 6-to-8 threes. It’s gonna happen at some point, mark my words