Irish drop overtime thriller to Indiana in Crossroads Classic
Marek Mazurek | Saturday, December 16, 2017
INDIANAPOLIS — The Irish have taken on one of two appearances in the last couple of games.
The first is the team that won the Maui Invitational after beating then-No. 6 Wichita State and then blew out Delaware on the road.
The second is the Irish team that dropped two out of three games in the span of one week with losses to No. 2 Michigan State and Ball State.
On Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the second team decided to show up for Notre Dame (8-3, 0-0 ACC), as the Irish dropped an 80-77 overtime thriller to Indiana (6-5, 1-1 Big Ten).
“We didn’t make very smart plays down the stretch in overtime,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “And it really cost us.”
The plays Brey was referring to weren’t just in one or two spots, although certain plays stand out over others. Instead, the entire ending stretch of regulation and overtime seemed to overwhelm the Irish on both sides of the court.
The game reached a crucial juncture at 54-49 with 7:59 to play in the second half. Up five points, the Irish could build a lead and potentially cruise to a victory or buckle up for a close finish.
The Irish chose to buckle.
Winning by two points with under a minute, Notre Dame substituted in graduate student forward Austin Torres for his defensive prowess.
Torres defended without fouling but gave up a basket to Hoosiers junior forward Juwan Morgan, who finished his day with 34 points.
“He just really moves his feet,” Brey said of his decision to play Torres. “I just love him in there in game situations defensively. He’s a defender and he’s a veteran guy, and we have faith in him.”
Then, back down on offense, the ball found Torres, who was fouled with 0.8 seconds showing on the clock.
Torres blew his chance at a storybook ending, missing both free throws and sending the game to overtime, where Indiana and Notre Dame would have to run through game-situations all over again.
This time, the results proved disastrous for the Irish.
Notre Dame, again up three points in the final minute of play, was in a solid position to hang on. But senior guard Matt Farrell tried to slide over and take a charge, which resulted in a three-point chance for the Hoosiers.
Morgan missed the free throw, but Indiana recovered the rebound and got a dunk to take the lead by one.
Farrell tried to make up for his mistake at the other end of the floor, but his shot was partially blocked, and the Irish hopes of escaping Indianapolis with a win died with it.
“You know, we were holding them off for most of the game, but, God, you’ve got to get a couple more defensive rebounds and good block-outs to get out of there,” Brey said.
“We didn’t deserve this one,” Irish senior forward Bonzie Colson said.
The loss continues Notre Dame’s poor showing at the Crossroads Classic. In 2015, Notre Dame led by 17 at one point in the game but fell to Indiana 80-73, and last year, the Irish saw a 14-point halftime lead evaporate against Purdue.
The Irish led by as many as 14 points late in the first half and again took an advantage into halftime. But as it did in each of the previous three years in Indianapolis, Notre Dame couldn’t hang on to a halftime lead.
“We’ve been in the pressure cooker for about four weeks,” Hoosiers head coach Archie Miller said. “You’re going against Duke. I think four–five games ago, you’re right there and disappointed you weren’t able to get it done. … I thought in this game, we were sharp enough to finish it off, and we also did it on both ends. We had key plays, being able to get key stops and continuing to score when we were down.”
Colson led the Irish in scoring with 29, but Notre Dame couldn’t contain Morgan. Morgan scored eight points in the overtime period alone in addition to the final field goal of regulation.
“He beat us up,” Brey said of Morgan. “God, did he beat us up, he was fabulous. … He’s just a really confident young man.”
In the end, any number of things can be looked at as the reason Notre Dame lost. The Hoosiers outrebounded the Irish 41-32 on the glass on the afternoon — a pattern in each of Notre Dame’s losses — and when it mattered, the Notre Dame defense wasn’t good enough to pull out a win.
“We’re up three, that’s when we go green and switch everything and we don’t want to give up a 3, and we talk about, ‘When a guy drives, just let him have the layup, let them cut it to one, and we’ll get it back in and get fouled,’” Brey said of the final sequence of events. “As much as we worked on our green defense, I thought we broke down a little bit.”
The Irish also had long periods of time when Colson going 1-on-1 was the only form of offense that worked.
The one positive for Brey was his bench production. Lacking in recent games, Notre Dame’s bench chipped in 12 points, with sophomore forward John Mooney and sophomore guard Nikola Djogo hitting 3-point shots.
“In a tough loss, I thought our bench did some good stuff,” Brey said. “[Djogo] gave us good minutes, and [freshman forward] D.J. [Harvey] gave us good minutes, and Mooney gave us good minutes, as we’re still trying to figure out who comes off the bench for us.”
Notre Dame’s next game will be back at Purcell Pavilion on Tuesday when Dartmouth comes to South Bend. Tipoff will be at 7 p.m.