3 reasons IU basketball held off Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic finale

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana held off Notre Dame 64-56 in the final game of the Crossroads Classic, closing out the event after 11 years at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The Hoosiers claimed their second nonconference victory over a major-conference opponent and grabbed their first win away from Assembly Hall, improving to 9-2 on the season.

Here are three reasons why that happened.

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So far, one thing is clear: IU can count on its defense. The rest is a work in progress.

Indiana's defense locked down after the first 12 minutes

Notre Dame's offensive strength comes in its multi-dimensional guards, and early on the Fighting Irish did a good job of using Indiana's switching defense against the Hoosiers, creating mismatches for Blake Wesley and Dane Goodwin. The Irish made nine of their first 20 field goal attempts with Wesley and Goodwin combining for five of those.

But the Hoosiers showed a little more discipline and saw better perimeter defense from their forwards down the stretch in the first half and that turned the game around. The Irish took a 24-15 lead with 7:17 to go in the first half, but Indiana outscored them 15-3 the rest of the period to take a 30-27 lead at the break. Notre Dame made just two of its last eight shots in the half, missing its last four and then its first three attempts of the second half, allowing the Hoosiers to extend the run to 22-5 and giving them a 37-29 lead.

The Irish went on an 11-1 scoring spurt to erase Indiana's lead in the second half, but then fizzled, making just 10 of 30 second-half shots, including 1 of 12 from beyond the 3-point arc. The Irish finished the game shooting 21 of 58 from the field, 4 of 22 from 3-point range with .836 points per possession.

IU's veteran frontcourt was sturdy as usual

IU coach Mike Woodson wasn't thrilled with what he got from backup center Michael Durr and power forward Jordan Geronimo. They were the only players on the roster who posted negative plus-minus figures and did so in a combined six minutes. Woodson instead decided to ride his starters, especially All-American center Trayce Jackson-Davis, and they rewarded him as usual.

Jackson-Davis played 38 minutes. posting his fourth double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds and also posted two assists and two blocks. . Fifth-year senior forward Race Thompson had to sit out some because of foul trouble early in the second half and that was part of the reason for Notre Dame's run, but he was a stabilizing force on both ends when he returned. He finished with 11 points on 4 of 4 shooting with three rebounds, three assists and two steals and was particularly sharp at handling switches that forced him onto guards.

The Hoosiers got 3s when they had to have them

Notre Dame defended the perimeter well and didn't give the Hoosiers' guards much of anything off the dribble. Indiana's best three-level scorer, freshman guard Tamar Bates, was out, attending a family funeral in the Kansas City area, and so the Hoosiers were without a significant perimeter-scoring weapon.

Indiana's guards and wings finished with a total of two 2-point field goals. One of those was a long 2 just inside the arc by point guard Xavier Johnson, and the other was a turnaround jumper just outside the paint by Miller Kopp. But the Hoosiers still got production from them thanks to the 3-ball. Indiana was 8 of 20 from beyond the arc, led by transfer Parker Stewart, who hit on three of his four 3-point attempts to finish with 12 points. Johnson took more 3s than he usually would and would be considered advisable, but he hit on 2 of 9 and finished with 11 points. Kopp hit one of his three attempts and senior guard Rob Phinisee hit on two of his three. Phinisee's second was especially important coming with 4:27 to go, giving the Hoosiers a five-point lead when Notre Dame had cut it to two.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Indiana basketball: Why Hoosiers beat Notre Dame in Crossroads Classic

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