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Men’s Basketball: Big second half from Jackson keeps Irish in tourney

Jenn Metz | Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NEW YORK — When the Irish needed him most, Tory Jackson was there to give the team “the little burst” they needed to hold off the Scarlet Knights for the win in their first-round Big East game.

Whenever Rutgers made a move to lessen the Irish lead, Jackson was there to stop them, hitting key jumpers and layups to neutralize the Scarlet Knights’ offense.

Teammates Kyle McAlarney, Luke Harangody and Irish coach Mike Brey threw the same words around after the game to describe Jackson’s 12 second-half points for Notre Dame: “energy,” “big shots” and “toughness.”

“He brought [it] in the second half,” McAlarney said. “And that’s what gave us the little burst right there.”

Jackson had a hand in 10 points during Notre Dame’s 12-0 run early in the second half, and his total of 12 points led Notre Dame in Tuesday’s game at Madison Square Garden – an arena where Jackson has a history.

For some, his performance brought back memories of the team’s semifinals contest against Georgetown two years ago, when the then-freshman lit up the court late in the game, almost lifting Notre Dame to a comeback win.

Tuesday night’s key player for the Irish “put the dagger” in Rutgers “when he went on that little run,” Harangody said. “Some flashbacks came to my mind.”

Brey also had some flashback moments watching Jackson in the second half.

“He likes playing here, since his freshman year. He’s always played pretty well here,” Brey said.

Jackson’s confidence in the Garden wasn’t all the coach saw. Brey said the junior guard’s ability to seize scoring opportunities for the Irish and inspire confidence in his team was something Notre Dame was lacking early on Tuesday.

“Tory really sensed that he had to make some plays and make some shots for us. It was one of those [games] where he wouldn’t let us lose,” Brey said. “I thought his confidence and his toughness made us believe we could win the game.”

How did Jackson perform and post team-leading figures in an otherwise low-scoring game?

“Just staying poised,” he said. “My teammates do a good job knocking shots down like that when I can’t. So I felt like I had an opportunity to do what they did in clutch situations like that.”

One such clutch situation — hitting a three with 7:41 left in the second to increase the Irish lead to 48-40.

“Rutgers laid back a little bit, I knocked down a three. When they did try to attack and get up in me, I drove to the basket and looked for other teammates,” he said.

Jackson, who put the finishing touches on the Irish win with layup in the final minute, wouldn’t take individual credit for the victory; it was a team effort, he said.

“I just took advantage of some of the things that they did,” Jackson said.

Jackson builds off his team, and the Irish depend on Jackson – a trend that will need to continue if Notre Dame wants to build a miracle run here in New York.

“We need his energy defensively and offensively,” McAlarney said.