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Notre Dame Basketball

Irish 'thrown to wolves' and wolves feast in loss to Purdue

December 19, 2020

Notre Dame showed enough resolve to wholly erase a 15-point first-half deficit Saturday against Purdue in the annual 'Crossroads Classic.'

What the Fighting Irish did not show enough of, once again, was consistent defense and an ability to fully get over the hump after digging itself a deep deficit.

The Boilermakers answered Notre Dame's 21-6 run that spanned the end of the first and opening moments of the second half with a 22-10 spurt that proved fatal in am 88-78 win for Purdue (6-2).

“They're disappointed when they lose,” said coach Mike Brey of the Irish (2-4). “Look at who we have lost to. Look at who we have put on the schedule and lost to. It's not changing.

“But I like that we've thrown ourselves to the wolves in December.”

Right now, the wolves are winning. Notre Dame has double-digit losses already to Michigan State, Duke and now Purdue; it also loss a narrow contest at home against nationally ranked Ohio State.

A week after defense rescued the Irish in a win at Kentucky, their inability to generate stretches of defense doomed Notre Dame against Purdue same as it did Wednesday against Duke.

The Boilermakers opened the game shooting more than 60% from the field as they quickly constructed a 24-12 lead. They finished the game a warm 49% from the field and bludgeoned Notre Dame from behind the arc, where the Boilermakers went 14-for-28.

“I think we did at times, but I think we've just got to string it together,” transfer-guard Trey Wertz said of the Irish's defensive inconsistencies. “We don't necessarily have a defensive identity right now.

“That's something we've got to talk about as a team and with the coaches. It's something we have to fix going into the end of December and ACC play.”

Wertz's play through two games does offer hope for the Irish, and it's something onto which Brey is embracing. Wertz paced all scorers with 27 points in 29 minutes.

“It really is staggering,” Brey said. “I mean, that was the easiest 27 with no forced action, just nice and easy that maybe I've ever witnessed. He's got five assists. Give him a lot of credit.”

Added Wertz, “I didn't try to force anything. I was comfortable out there and just tried to move around and shoot when I was open.”

Wertz was part of a revamped Irish starting lineup that Brey said would, at minimum, extend into Tuesday's game at ACC foe Syracuse. Juwan Durham and Nik Djogo were Notre Dame's only bench contributors.

“That's the first time I've had my seven guys that we've been counting on with Durham and Djogo coming off the bench,” Brey said. “The schedule is not going to let up. And I think that's a great thing. Tuesday night is going to be a challenge as well.”

Eric Hunter Jr. and Sasha Stefanovic paced Purdue with 18 points apiece; Jaden Ivey, son of Notre Dame women's coach Niele Ivey, had four points off the bench for the Boilermakers.

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