Dec. 15, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Notre Dame already knew it could defend. Now the Fighting Irish know they have the offense to match.
Jack Cooley had 18 points and nine rebounds to lead No. 22 Notre Dame to its seventh straight victory, 81-68 over Purdue on Saturday in the Crossroads Classic.
Eric Atkins had 17 points and seven assists, Pat Connaughton scored 16 and Garrick Sherman 11 for the Fighting Irish (9-1), who have won every game during their win streak by double digits.
The Fighting Irish shot 49 percent from the field to score at least 80 points for the third time in four games. The other game during that stretch was a 64-50 win over Kentucky.
“Now our offense is catching up to where our defense was, and we’re flowing really well,” Cooley said. “We’re just really playing well on offense. No one’s being selfish and that’s great to see.”
Notre Dame outrebounded Purdue 38-33 and outscored the Boilermakers 24-14 at the free throw line.
“I thought that was really business-like by us today,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We’re an older team, and I thought it was men kind of playing like men.”
Former Purdue player Scott Martin chipped in with five points for Notre Dame on 2-for-8 shooting. Though Martin fell short of his usual production, he was valuable because of the knowledge he gained on the Purdue program as a freshman in the 2007-08 season.
“To have the experience and know their tendencies – he was giving us all pointers and he was helping us all out – it’s huge,” Cooley said. “It was good to have Scott there.”
Purdue freshman Rapheal Davis scored all 21 of his points in the second half, helping the Boilermakers trim a 23-point second-half deficit to single digits at one point. Ronnie Johnson scored 15 points and D.J. Byrd added 13 for Purdue (4-6).
The Boilermakers did what they’ve done all season – they showed they have the talent to be competitive, but didn’t put it together.
“We have a lot of young guys, and we have a lot of older guys who have struggled also, so as a group, we haven’t found a consistency,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “It’s hard when the other team is totally outplaying you to keep that edge or keep that fight.”
The schools had not played each other in basketball since 2004.
Cooley scored 11 points in the first half to help Notre Dame take a 39-31 lead at the break. The Fighting Irish shot 57 percent from the field before the break and held the Boilermakers to 11-for-27 shooting. Purdue also committed nine turnovers before the break, something that stuck with Painter.
“I don’t think it’s the effort, it’s the decision making,” Painter said. “You have nine turnovers in the first half against a good team, you’re actually fortunate to be down eight. It’s frustrating when you don’t take care of the basketball because it’s an element of the game that you can control.”
Purdue was solid defensively early in the second half, but a bad sequence shifted the momentum in Notre Dame’s favor. A.J. Hammons missed a dunk for Purdue, then Notre Dame hustled downcourt and Connaughton hit a 3-pointer to give the Fighting Irish a 44-31 lead. Then, a bucket in close by Atkins made it a 15-point game.
Notre Dame extended its lead to 57-35 before Purdue went on a run. Byrd and Davis each hit a 3-pointer to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 57-43. Davis made a spin move to score in the lane then hit a driving layup to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 10. Davis followed with a jumper to trim the deficit to single digits.
Notre Dame eventually settled down. A 3-point play by Atkins pushed Notre Dame’s lead back to 66-53, and a three-point play by Cooley bumped the lead to 14 with just under three minutes to play.
Purdue shot just 41 percent from the field and made only 5 of 15 3-point attempts. The Boilermakers hadn’t allowed more than 70 points in a game this season and had held their previous two opponents under 50.
Painter said Notre Dame exposed Purdue’s biggest weaknesses: youth and poor ballhandling.
“They have an older team, they have a good team, and their guards always give them a chance,” he said. “Notre Dame’s guards give them a chance to win every single night because they take care of the ball.”