INDIANAPOLIS — Notre Dame finally played the way coach Mike Brey wanted.
They worked hard, shot well and they demonstrated they could deliver a knockout punch, too.
John Mooney scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds while D.J. Harvey matched his career-high with 19 points to lead Notre Dame past Purdue 88-80 in the first game of Saturday’s Crossroads Classic.
“This is huge for us. We lost to two good teams away from our building. If we go 0-3 we’re digging out of a hole for a while,” Brey said. “If there are must-wins in December, we were staring at one today.”
The Fighting Irish (7-3) snapped a two-game losing streak by becoming the first in-state school to beat Purdue since February 2016.
And though they never trailed over the final 35 minutes, it sure wasn’t easy on or off the court.
One day after the athletic department announced freshman Robby Carmody would miss the rest of this season with a torn labrum, the Irish suffered another big blow when senior Ref Pflueger crumpled to the floor with 5:36 to play, clutching his left knee. He was carried directly into the locker room and later returned to the bench with the knee packed in ice.
Brey credited Pflueger with helping the Irish turning things around Saturday and said the starting guard would have an MRI next week.
“It didn’t look good,” Brey said. “There’s fear that it’s an ACL.”
Pflueger’s teammates took the cue from his big game — seven points and a career best 10 assists — and closed it out almost according to the script, too.
Notre Dame opened the game by making 11 of their first 14 shots and eventually used a 12-2 spurt to take a 30-18 lead with 8:14 left in the first half.
The Boilermakers (6-5, 1-1 Big Ten) closed the half on a 7-2 run, cutting the deficit to 36-29, and got as close as 42-38 with 16:01 left to play before Notre Dame answered with a putback and Harvey’s 3-pointer to make it 47-38.
Purdue never got closer than five again despite getting 27 points from Carsen Edwards and 15 from Ryan Cline. The Boilermakers have lost two in a row, four of five and had their nine-game winning streak against in-state schools snapped.
“We just had too many breakdowns defensively,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “When you’re just trying to outscore somebody, you’re not going to win too many basketball games.”
Notre Dame: The Irish completed a brutal nonconference stretch by going 3-2 against five straight power-conference teams. Things should get a little easier before heading into ACC play, and if they can overcome the injuries Notre Dame could emerge as a stronger team.
Purdue: The Boilermakers have struggled to find a consistent complementary scorer for Edwards and it looks like they will continue to struggle until they do.
Notre Dame: Notre Dame won its first game in the Classic in three years. … T.J. Gibbs scored 12 points and Dane Goodwin added 11 points. … The Irish shot 52 percent from the field and were 11 of 21 on 3s.
Purdue: The Boilermakers are 0-3 against ACC schools with previous losses against Virginia Tech and Florida State. … A six-day break didn’t help the Boilermakers solve their shooting woes. After going 9 of 32 on 3s in last Sunday’s loss at Texas, they were 9 of 29 against Notre Dame. … Trevion Williams scored 10 points and was the only other player to reach double figures. … Purdue had a 40-30 rebounding advantage, including 15-2 on offensive rebounds.
THEY SAID IT
Notre Dame: “It’s huge. We closed it out,” Mooney said.
Purdue: “It was just our lapses that gave them open shots. We can’t just play through our offense. We have to get stops,” Cline said.