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Posted on Sat. Dec. 14, 2013 - 12:01 am EDT

Hoosiers not about to take Irish for granted

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Crossroads Classic

Notre Dame vs. Indiana

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

When: 3:15 p.m. today

TV: ESPN

Radio: 1250 AM, 1480 AM, 102.9 FM

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FORT WAYNE — Indiana coach Tom Crean knew all about Notre Dame’s 73-69 loss to North Dakota State – at home – ahead of the matchup between the Hoosiers (8-2) and Irish (7-3) today in the Crossroads Classic.

Crean also emphasized that the Notre Dame team IU will see at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis will be nothing like the group that lost in perplexing fashion on Wednesday.

“I know they didn’t have great scoring the other night, but they’re fully capable. They’re always one of the better shooting teams in the country,” he said of the Irish, who shot 35.7 percent from the field in that loss.

“You can overanalyze it instead of saying what it really is: they just didn’t make shots. They’re fully capable of making those shots.”

The Hoosiers must eliminate those shooting opportunities, regardless of whether Notre Dame comes in hot or cold today. But that will be a tough task.

Despite the poor showing Wednesday, the Irish shoot 47.9 percent from the field, are a top-five group in assists per game with 19.2 per game and are the No. 14 team in the country in 3-point percentage.

Senior guard Jerian Grant, who went 0 of 5 from the field and 0 of 3 on 3-pointers Wednesday, leads the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game and has 6.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game. The Irish start five upperclassmen, all of which average double-digit points.

On paper, Notre Dame is a complete team with a lot of on-court experience.

That is what IU will face at the Classic, Crean said. His players got that message.

“They run a lot of sets to a T, they move the ball very well, and they get it out in transition,” sophomore guard Yogi Ferrell said.

“It’s definitely going to take a team effort. If we guard our yard and, you know, stay to their tendencies, we’ll be OK.”

Ferrell, the team’s leading scorer at 16.4 points per game, will be one of the keys in that regard.

The 6-foot point guard will often match up against Grant, who is 6-5, as well as freshman Demetrius Jackson, who has a wide wingspan despite a 6-1 frame.

The experience on the perimeter could also pose a problem for a young IU team.

The Hoosiers have most of their experience in the backcourt, including Ferrell and graduate transfer Evan Gordon, but freshman guards Troy Williams and Stan Robinson will have to play above their years.

“I expect them to hit some big-time shots,” said Williams, who is averaging 9.1 points and 5.4 rebounds

“They have a lot of 3-point shooters on the team. They got a very good post player this year in (Garrick) Sherman. We’re just hoping we can do well on defense against them.”

Crean hopes his team does better than well.

The group will have to be rock-solid against the Irish, he said, if it hopes to get what would be its best nonconference win of the season.

Even with losses to Indiana State and North Dakota State, a victory against Notre Dame will be a résumé booster at NCAA tournament time, he said.

“We’ll get their best effort, we’ll get their best performance, we’ll get their best energy – we’ll get the whole deal,” Crean said.

“Like we had last year, when you’ve got a bunch of shooters on the court, you’re going to get some open shots, and our job is not to allow those open shots.

“We haven’t faced a team that’s got this many good range offensive players. … Bottom line is, we can’t give them easy baskets.

“They’re good enough, no matter who’s in the game, to capitalize on it.”

Note: Crean said Friday that freshman forward Devin Davis is cleared to play after an ankle injury last week.

smorrison@jg.net


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