Indiana 69, Notre Dame 58: Hoosiers grind out ugly win.

IU began the game with a sluggish demeanor and offensive struggles, and spotted Notre Dame a 9 point lead, accounting for IU's biggest deficit of the season, but a solid defensive effort combined with ND's offensive struggles allowed IU to control the second half and ultimately to win comfortably. IU is now 10-0, and with three sub-300-ish non-conference. Neither team set the world on fire in the first half, but IU held ND to 20 percent shooting in the first half, and ND's better offensive play in the second half was mostly offset by IU's. Unlike most of IU's games to date, this one was a bit ugly, and had the feel of a Big Ten slugfest. It was the first time all year that it really felt like IU had an off day, yet when the game was over, IU had an 11-point win over a well-coached team. Here's the box score.

Taking a look at the tempo free stats, IU's best area of improvement was in rebounding. IU had 16 offensive rebounds to only 21 defensive rebounds for Notre Dame, while ND had only 7 ORs compared to 24 DRs for IU. Turnovers were basically a wash, with IU holding a slight edge, but considering where ND ranks nationally in offensive turnover percentage, it's generally a positive. All in all, a win against and injury-and-attrition-damaged Notre Dame program doesn't tell us all that much about the future. It was, however, an example of IU finding a way to victory when we weren't playing all that well, and considering that IU's three remaining non-conference foes all have Pomeroy ratings of 255 or lower, it virtually assures the Hoosiers of a 13-0 non-conference record, and a 12-0 record when the Hoosiers begin Big Ten play. As many have noted, if IU wins its next game, the Hoosiers will be 10-0 for the first time since 1989-1990. That season should be a cautionary tale, as the freshmen-led Hoosiers finished 8-10 in the Big Ten that year. Before that, IU went 10-0 in 1982-83 as well, but finding the last 11-0 start requires reaching all the way back to 1975-76 and the undefeated NCAA champs. This team isn't remotely on that level, but has exceeded all expectations.

Individual performances of note:

  • Cody Zeller had another fine game,albeit in some foul trouble, with 21 points on 8-14 shooting.
  • Victor Oladipo was great against his high school teammate Jerian Grant: 16 points on 6-7 from the field, no turnovers.
  • Bad Watford was back, shooting only 2-9 from the field, but he did manage to eek out 10 points thanks to 6-6 from the line.
  • Jordan Hulls managed 12 points and was 2-2 from behind the arc. IU hit three of his unusually low 7 three point attempts, but whoever was ahead of IU must have lost. According to Pomeroy, IU is now first in the nation in three point shooting percentage.
Now, IU has games on Monday and Thursday, against Howard and Maryland-Baltimore County, before opening Big Ten play in East Lansing next Wednesday. It's been a fun ride so far.

And, of course, I probably shouldn't avoid mentioning the first game of yesterday's Crossroads Classic, Butler's comeback win over Purdue. First and foremost, this game is good for IU's strength of schedule. The better Butler does for the rest of the season, the better IU's 16-point win looks. It's really strange. I haven't watched Purdue much this year, but two of the games I watched were Xavier and Butler--two games where Purdue looked as good as anyone for the first thirty minutes and then...well, the word "collapse" doesn't quite do it justice. I do think, however, in light of the rhetoric emerging from West Lafayette over the last three years, it has been interesting to see how Purdue fans react to what has been an up-and-down season. If the shoe were on the other foot, and IU were ranked #315 in the nation in free throw shooting and had, on two of the last three Saturdays, completely forgotten how to make a basket in the final ten minutes of the game, what might they be saying about "Clappy the Clown"? For what it's worth, I think what they are saying is pretty accurate. Painter is still a very good coach, but ultimately the talent and experience on hand dictate what a team is able to do. In fact, that exactly what most IU fans have been saying while Purdue fans mocked our patience with Tom Crean. Still, I don't have any doubt that Purdue will be a formidable opponent, especially at Mackey.

As I said, this is a quick turnaround. I'll preview Howard tonight or early tomorrow.
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