A strange basketball game broke out between Indiana and Notre Dame in Indianapolis today.
For most of the game, Indiana looked like the same Indiana squad we've seen time after time this season - and last season for matter. The defense was, at best, questionable. The team was making turnovers and dumb mistakes. Shot selection was puzzling. Notre Dame was scoring in the paint at ease. And the Hoosiers were trying to force too many things. Down by 13 after five quick Notre Dame points, the Hoosiers looked lifeless early in the second half.
If you read through my tweets, or this blog's twitter account, you would have been justified if you thought IU fans were going to buy up all the pitchforks and torches in Central Indiana after this one.
But a switch clicked in the second half, and oddly enough - it came after Tom Crean made a defensive adjustment.
Yep, you heard that right.
Crean adjusted to a 1-3-1 zone (actually a 2-3 zone according to his postgame comments), and suddenly the Hoosiers were a different team, shutting down a Notre Dame squad that had been shooting well all game. Coupled with a shooting run that was much needed after shooting 35% from the field in the first half, and suddenly, Indiana was right back in the thick of things.
By the end of the game, Notre Dame was gassed, and the Hoosiers scored 17 of the final 19 points of the game to win by a comfortable margin. Credit new S&C coach Lyonel Anderson for getting this team in shape to close out the crucial victory.
There were two notable stars of the game from each of the halves.
First half MVP: Robert Johnson
With it being the Crossroads Classic, you'd hope a guy named Robert Johnson would have a good showing. And it was the RoJo show in the first half, as he scored the first 5 points of the game for Indiana and was the only guy for the Hoosiers who was clicking early.
Second half MVP: Troy Williams
Troy's inconsistency is still quite apparent. His shot selection is maddening, and his frenetic style of play can lead to visible mistakes. But early in the half, Williams came charging out of the gate for Indiana, playing with the type of energy that was missing from the rest of the team. Late in the half, Williams made a few key free throws to put the game away for the Hoosiers, and stole the ball from the Irish with the Hoosiers up 2 with less than a minute to go.
Even if Notre Dame isn't as good as the team that was a 3-seed and a shot away from beating Kentucky in the Elite 8 last year, this is still the signature nonconference win of the season. This was a weird victory, and the Hoosiers still have a lot to fix before B1G play starts in about 10 days, especially with regards to point in the paint and turnovers. But if the Hoosiers can put together the type of performance they had during their late run today, they could be the dangerous team that they were advertised to be before the season started.
Mike Brey made a big deal of saying before this game that Notre Dame is the most consistent program in the state, "and it isn't close," earlier this week.
It's too bad his team couldn't stay consistent for 40 minutes this afternoon. Maybe they would have walked out of Bankers Life Fieldhouse a winner if they had.