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‘It’s going to be pretty surreal:’ Crossroads Classic another chance for Hoosiers to play at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

One of the first times IU freshman guard Robert Phinisee played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis was in the 2016 4A Indiana State Championship game.

It was Phinisee’s McCutcheon Mavericks vs. now-IU teammate Romeo Langford’s New Albany Bulldogs. While it turned out to be a 62-59 win for Langford and New Albany, Phinisee got the chance to play at one of the premier basketball venues in the state of Indiana: Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

When Phinisee walks out on the court Saturday in Indianapolis for IU’s game vs. the Butler Bulldogs, it will be just the second time since that day in 2016 that he plays in Indiana’s NBA arena. The Hoosiers played there for a closed scrimmage prior to this season against Loyola Chicago. But this time around, the stands will be packed with fans from four different in-state universities.

“It’s going to be pretty surreal, just all the in-state schools,” Phinisee said. “I know I’m from Indiana so just going in there, last time I was there, besides a closed scrimmage was the state championship, so I know it’s going to be a great atmosphere and I’m just really looking forward to it.”

Saturday’s game comes as the bookend to one of Indiana’s toughest five game stretches of the schedule. Since IU’s game against Duke, the Hoosiers have reeled off three straight wins against quality opponents. Butler will provide another quality opponent Saturday as they rank 26th in KenPom, one spot above Indiana at No. 25.

While Saturday could be another good resumé building win, it’s also a chance to play in a special environment. The Crossroads Classic brings together the top four programs in the state of Indiana giving the Hoosiers an environment that is, what coach Archie Miller called, “a tournament feel.”

“The Crossroads weekend is here it’s always an exciting game, especially taking our guys into Bankers Life, it’s a great venue,” IU coach Archie Miller said. “The environment is almost a tournament feel and Butler brings all the good qualities that they have had in their program over the last 15 to 20 years.”

Phinisee also gets a chance to play against a team that recruited him with Butler. Saturday he might get the matchup against one of Butler’s top scorers in Kamar Baldwin. He said the key to slowing him down would be to play team defense, lock in and help each other. It’s also a chance for the Lafayette, Indiana native to play against a school that recruited him.

While Lavall Jordan wasn’t the one who recruited Phinisee, he still knows what the Butler program is all about.

“I know I was recruited by them with the coach that’s at Ohio State now,” Phinisee said. “But I mean just being the underdogs and coming in looking to knock off top-ranked opponents, I really respected that and just the atmospheres they had at games it was pretty good.”

Saturday’s game also comes on the heels of the end of finals week in Bloomington. Miller said it was tough for some guys to be fully engaged mentally, which is why Miller gave his team an extra day off in the middle of the week to rest up and prepare.

“We try to take advantage of the time we got on the court because you know how finals can be,” IU guard Al Durham said. “We just try to take advantage of the time on the court, go over things that we need to and just try to make the most of what we got.”

And for Phinisee, it’s his first finals week as a student. He said he was definitely not pulling all-nighters.

“Really just take time and rest and just get a lot of sleep and really just not do things that are stupid,” Phinisee said.

I am a senior from Seattle, Washington majoring in Media. I am formerly of the Indiana Daily Student where I covered Indiana men’s soccer team and women’s basketball. You still can find me broadcasting for WIUX Student Radio and on BTN Student U outside of The Hoosier Network. Former intern at 710 ESPN Seattle and broadcaster for the Falmouth Commodores. Email: Follow me on Twitter: @JoshEastern.

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