No. 25 Indiana takes on Butler in Crossroads Classic
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Understandably, Butler coach LaVall Jordan is big fan of the Crossroads Classic.
At 5-2, the Bulldogs have the best record in the annual doubleheader between four Indiana schools at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
On Saturday, Butler (7-2) takes on No. 25 Indiana (8-2). Purdue and Notre Dame will meet in the opening game. IU is next with a 4-3 record in Crossroads action.
"I love the event," Jordan said. "I think it's a great event for the state. It's great for Indiana basketball to be on display around the country. It's great for all the schools to match up and go against each other. Fans love it. Our guys love it.
"The competition is obviously a high level so you can test yourselves against good programs and good teams. There is no downside to it."
There is no downside to Butler's most recent performance, either. Jordan said there was much to like offensively as his team hit 17 3-pointers in a 95-68 rout of visiting Northern Illinois on Dec. 8.
"We're a still a work in progress," Jordan said in a WFIN radio interview. "These first nine games have been a good test for us. We're learning a lot. Guys are growing into new roles pretty nicely. The thing I love about this group is they are connected and come every day with a great effort."
Jordan said it has been a solid start to the season, but there are areas where the team can get better. Going against the young but talented Hoosiers will provide another measuring stick.
Jordan said Indiana freshman guard Rob Phinisee and Romeo Langford are "playing above their years."
Langford is averaging a team-high 18.2 points on 48.8 percent shooting for the Hoosiers, who have won three games in a row and moved into the Top 25 rankings for the first time in nearly two seasons.
"He doesn't seem to let the pace and the level affect him," Jordan said of Langford. "Obviously, he's been scoring all his life, so those guys generally figure out a way to score the ball. Usually, the pace kind of dictates how fast you're playing. He's got a phenomenal pace to his game."
Hoosiers coach Archie Miller said Langford's strength is his attacking style.
"Romeo is as gifted as it gets in terms of getting to the basket," Miller said. "Shooting the ball well, not shooting the ball well, that's not his MO. His MO is he's obviously been a great attacking guard off the dribble.
"I don't think a lot of people understand how physically big and strong he is as a freshman, how gifted he is in his length offensively as he's approaching the paint."
The 6-foot-6 Langford is averaging 5.3 rebounds, second on the team to senior Juwan Morgan's 8.1 rebounding average.
"We want him (Langford) to play even stronger, got to get him rebounding the ball a little bit better," Miller said. "I think he'll be fine with that. I think as we get into Big Ten play, definitely will be something that our team in general will have to deal with, is just the battle of the physical (play)."
Phinisee is averaging 7.4 points and 3.5 assists. Miller said Phinisee is physically strong for a freshman.
"There's very few freshmen guards that can do what he does for 33 minutes in terms of the defensive side of the ball, which we ask him to do," Miller said.
"He's also a tough kid. You don't really know how tough a guy is, what they're made of, until you get them going. He's taking advantage of the opportunities he's been given.
"He's played well. He's had a great work ethic about it. He's also learning how to play point guard in college, a lot different than playing point guard in high school. I think he's doing a better job running our team. He's been a great, great addition to the program all the way around, on and off the floor."
The Bulldogs will get a boost from the addition of Duke transfer Jordan Tucker. Ranked No. 40 overall in his class by ESPN coming out of Wheeler (Ga.) High School, the 6-foot-7 Tucker played in just two games for Duke during the 2017-18 season before transferring.
Updated December 14, 2018