Hoosiers hoping finals fatigue doesn’t affect matchup with Fighting Irish

Indiana's Juwan Morgan is averaging 14.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

INDIANAPOLIS — Notre Dame forward Bonzie Colson and his teammates know they might not have a lot of time to warm up Saturday afternoon before they tip off against in-state rival Indiana in the 2017 Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The first game of the day is Butler versus Purdue. Once that is final, the Fighting Irish and Hoosiers will have 27 minutes to get loose.

“Sometimes, it’s like that,” Notre Dame forward Bonzie Colson said to the South Bend Tribune. “It’s like an AAU tournament game where you have to go out there and play. We’ll just show up and play.”

No. 18 Notre Dame (8-2) hopes to keep playing better after dropping two of its previous four contests against Michigan State and Ball State. The Fighting Irish bounced back with a 92-68 win over Delaware on the road Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, Indiana (5-5) is looking for more consistency after an up-and-down start to the season. The Hoosiers are coming off a 71-62 loss against Louisville on Saturday and have had a full week to prepare for Notre Dame — as well as to prepare for winter exams.

“It’s always a difficult balance when you’re a college basketball player, balancing this week of exams along with a long week of practice as you head into this weekend’s game,” Indiana coach Archie Miller told reporters this week. “We’ve taken it pretty slow. We’ve had some heavy testing days later in the week for us, so we’ve practiced relatively early and then as we ease into the weekend, you have to try and balance a little bit of rest.”

This marks the seventh appearance for both schools in the Crossroads Classic, and the fourth time they will face off against each other in the event. Both teams are 3-3 overall, and Indiana holds a 2-1 lead over Notre Dame in head-to-head matchups during the tourney.

Stopping Colson will be a focus for Indiana, which has limited opponents to 70 points or fewer in five of its first 10 games. Colson is a force in the paint who is averaging just shy of a double-double with 19.5 points and 9.6 rebounds. He is supported on the perimeter by sharpshooters such as guards Matt Farrell (16.5 points) and T.J. Gibbs (14.3), who rank first and second on the team in 3-pointers.

Indiana is led in scoring by junior forward Juwan Morgan, who is averaging 14.1 points and 6.6 rebounds. Forward De’Ron Davis (11.5 points) and guard Robert Johnson (11.4 points) also are averaging in double digits for the Hoosiers.

Miller said he was eager for the high-stakes matchup against Notre Dame, which has established itself under veteran coach Mike Brey as a perennial winner. Brey has 390 wins for the Fighting Irish and needs four more wins to pass Digger Phelps (393) as the program’s all-time winningest coach.

“You’re playing against a great team in a great venue,” Miller said when asked about the showdown. “Clearly, being in Indianapolis is going to be a great feeling for us. Another nationally televised game for the world to see.”