It had been nearly nine years since Notre Dame and Purdue last met on the hardwoods. The Boilermakers might want to wait as long for their next meeting after the Fighting Irish beat their intrastate rival 81-68 Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Purdue found a second half spark to make the final score look closer than the game actually ever was.
Notre Dame (9-1) led by as many as 23 points with 10:23 remaining in the second half, but a 16-2 run by Purdue (4-6) brought the Boilermakers to within single digits with 5:35 remaining in the game.
Raphael Davis led the Boiler comeback attempt with a game-high 21 points off the bench. The freshman from Ft. Wayne was 8-for-9 from the field to score all of his points in the second half. Davis came into the game averaging just 3.2 points.
Jack Cooley led four Irish players in double figures with 18 points. He just missed another double-double after finishing with nine rebounds. Eric Atkins had 17 points and seven assists. Pat Connaughton scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and Garrick Sherman finished with 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the field.
The Fighting Irish shot 49% (26-for-53) from the field – well above Purdue’s 37% defensive average. Purdue hit 14 of its last 16 shots to end the game and finish with a 41% (25-for-61) day from the field. They were shooting just 31% prior to the closing stretch.
Both teams shot 33% from three-point range. The Irish were 5-for-15, while Purdue was 4-for-12. Irish sixth-year senior Scott Martin, who played for a year at Purdue before transferring to Notre Dame, was just 1-of-5 on three-pointers and finished with five points and eight rebounds.
The matchup of the two Indiana teams was the second of the day in the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic. It did not have quite the same feel as Butler’s 88-86 overtime upset of No. 1 Indiana, but it will suit the Irish none the less.
Notre Dame extended its winning streak to seven games with the victory, while improving to 8-2 all-time against Purdue in games played in Indianapolis. The previous seven meetings in Indy took place in the famed Hinkle Fieldhouse on the Butler University campus. The Irish are also 21-20 against the Boilermakers. Prior to the 2004 meeting their last game against Purdue was during the 1965-’66 season.
Notre Dame had played just two games in the last 16 days, but the Irish will get busy in the next week. They are off on Sunday before returning home to face IPFW Monday night and then host Kennesaw State and Niagara on Wednesday and Friday at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.