Notre Dame scored the first seven points of the second half and used a 17-2 run to subdue a youth-filled Purdue squad, 81-68, in the second annual Crossroads Classic, Saturday in Indianapolis.
The Irish pulled out to a comfortable margin early, using a 12-2 run to extend from a tie score at 6 to an 18-8 edge midway through the first half. That lead grew to 23 midway through the second, as post power from senior All-Big East performer Jack Cooley, and continued savvy guard play by the Irish proved too much for a Purdue team that fell to 4-6 in pre-Big 10 play.
Purdue committed 15 turnovers, too many to overcome on top of Notre Dame's 49 percent shooting effort. The Irish also out-rebounded the Boilers 38-33 led by Cooley's 9 boards, five from the offensive glass.
Cooley led the Irish with 18 points while junior point guard Eric Atkins added 17 points with seven assists. Sophomore Pat Connaughton scored 16 on 10 shots. Connaughton had scuffled of late, finishing with seven points or fewer in five of six games heading into Saturday afternoon.
Atkins' backcourt running mate Jerian Grant added nine points, eight rebounds, and seven assists for the Irish.
Purdue freshman Rapheal Davis scored all 21 of his points in the second half to lead both teams. David scored 15 consecutive points for the Boilers who briefly drew to within nine, 58-49 with 5:42 remaining but the Irish maintained a 10-14 point advantage for the duration.
Three more before the warsFirst IPFW, then Kennesaw State, then Niagara. Three tomato cans -- to borrow from boxing parlance -- on tap this week week, none of which will affect Notre Dame's resume or the overall seasoning of the back end of its (theoretical) rotation.
The latter might be necessary come tournament time but the established Irish, seven players strong in most contested games to date, appear set to enter conference play ranked, and at 12-1 with a win over defending national champion Kentucky included.
Mike Brey's crew, picked to finish third in the Big East by a pre-season poll of conference coaches, will first host Seton Hall on January 5 before traveling to current No. 11 Cincinnati two days later -- a tip-off currently scheduled for two hours prior to No. 1 Notre Dame's BCS Championship football matchup with No. 2 Alabama.
The Saturday/Monday turnaround is the first of three for the Irish through 18 conference games, with the final five of the six games from that set played outside of South Bend.
The Irish drew home-and-home matchups with two of the team's top-ranked programs, current No. 6 Louisville and the aforementioned Bearcats. Noter Dame also takes on St. John's twice while hosting Connecticut and No. 15 Georgetown and traveling to No. 4 Syracuse among its signature games.