Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - Instate rivals will meet up at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon, as the 23rd-ranked Butler Bulldogs take on the Indiana Hoosiers as part of the fourth annual Crossroads Classic.
Purdue and Notre Dame will play the second game of the event, which highlights basketball in the state of Indiana.
The Bulldogs made a change at the top before the season began, as head coach Brandon Miller requested and was granted a medical leave of absence. Interim head coach Chris Holtmann has done a good job in his stead, as Butler has forged its way into the Top-25 with an impressive 8-2 start. The Bulldogs have been idle the past six days due to finals, but are eager to put some distance between them and a 67-55 road loss at Tennessee last time out.
Tom Crean's Hoosiers are also sporting a solid 8-2 overall record. Indiana's two losses have come to Eastern Washington (88-86) and Louisville (94-74), but the Hoosiers have won four of their last five games, including a 94-66 blowout of Grand Canyon a week ago.
The Hoosiers hold a 37-14 advantage in the all-time series with Butler, but it was the Bulldogs getting the last victory, an 88-86 thriller in this event two years ago.
Crean is on the verge of reaching the 300-win plateau, as his Hoosiers easily earned him win No. 299 with the rout of Grand Canyon last time out. Indiana dominated in just about every facet of the game, including a huge 52-35 edge in rebounding, while also committing a mere four turnovers in the entire game. Freshman James Blackmon Jr. was instrumental in the win once again, netting a game-high 18 points. Troy Williams tacked on 14 points, while Hanner Mosquera- Perea finished with 11 for Indiana, which had 11 players contribute to the scoring deluge.
Scoring has come rather easy for Indiana this season, with the team ranking among the nation's best in both scoring (87.5 ppg) and field-goal percentage (.508), which includes an impressive .421 from behind the arc. Blackmon has made an immediate impact in all those areas. He currently leads all freshmen nationally with 19.2 ppg, as 6-foot-4 youngster is shooting just under 50 percent from the floor, with a team-best 28 3-pointers to this credit. Fellow guard Yogi Ferrell can fill up the basket as well at 15.9 ppg, while also serving as the team's top distributor (5.4 apg). Williams and Robert Johnson round out the top scorers with 12.1 and 10.1 ppg, respectively.
Unlike Indiana, Butler's success is fueled by stingy defensive play. The Bulldogs are limiting the opposition to a mere 55.5 ppg this year, holding foes under 40 percent shooting overall (.396) and well under 30 percent from behind the arc (.256). In addition, Butler holds a +4.5 rebounding margin and is forcing just over 16 turnovers per contest. Kellen Dunham highlights a trio of double-digit scoring options with his 16.3 ppg. Kelan Martin (10.8 ppg) and Roosevelt Jones (10.6 ppg) complete the set, with Jones doling out 5.0 apg. Kameron Woods (7.8 ppg) is the team's top rebounder, grabbing just over nine caroms per outing (9.1).
The Bulldogs took a nine-point lead into halftime at Thompson Boling Arena back on Dec. 14, but could not hold it, as Tennessee came roaring back after the break to take a 12-point victory over Butler. The Bulldogs had a rare letdown defensively, as the Vols shot 50 percent from the floor against a mere 33.3 percent effort by the visitors. Dunham once again led the way offensively, putting up 16 points in the loss. Martin added 13 for Butler, but there was little support elsewhere.