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Men’s Basketball: Jackson fuels close victory

Bill Brink | Monday, February 8, 2010

In order to beat South Florida, Irish coach Mike Brey had to revert to middle school tactics.
The tough South Florida stifled Notre Dame’s offense. So Brey told his teams to drive the ball.

“Ram it in there like an AAU game,” he said.

The “best candidate” for that, in Brey’s eyes? Tory Jackson.

It was that mentality that helped Jackson score 18 points, including 14 in the second half and seven crucial points down the stretch, to lead Notre Dame to a 65-62 victory over South Florida Sunday at the Purcell Pavilion.

“It was just one of those days where no matter what, don’t doubt yourself,” Jackson said.
Brey said he wasn’t surprised. He said he has never seen a better leader than Jackson, who averaged 7.7 points per game before Sunday.

“He’s been running our whole locker room since Christmas,” Brey said.

The win improves Notre Dame’s record to 17-7, 6-5 in Big East play. The Bulls fell to 15-8 and 5-6 in the conference.

In a game between the top two scorers in the Big East, Harangody and Bulls guard Dominique Jones, neither one was stellar. Harangody finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds and Jones had 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting. Jones had averaged 29.4 points in his last nine games and was the Big East player of the week. In his absence, guard Chris Howard stepped up, scoring 23 points.

Senior guard Ben Hansbrough scored 13 points and hit 3-of-6 3-pointers.

With the game tied at 58, Jackson drove the lane and sank a layup, then was fouled while he hit a jumper a minute later. He converted the 3-point play and Notre Dame led 63-58.
Bulls forward Jarrid Famous threw down two dunks to close the gap to one, but on the second one, with 8.3 seconds left, Harangody fouled him, giving him the chance to tie the game with a free throw.

“It was just one of those things where he came over and the initial reaction is to try to get a piece of him,” Harangody said. “That’s all on me, that’s why I wanted to get the ball in my hands to seal the deal for my team.”

But he missed, and Harangody’s subsequent free throws sealed the game. A 3-point attempt from Jones hit the back of the rim but bounced out as time expired.
“[Harangody] was so down after the game,” Brey said. “I said, ‘Would you smile? You made the free throws.'”

The Irish led by as many as 15 in the first half, but entered halftime with the score tied at 34. In the second half, Howard scored six straight points to give South Florida a 50-44 lead with 10:36 remaining.

During a timeout, Brey got into his players, chastising them for their disappointment at the score.

“We had the body language of, ‘We should be up 10,'” Brey said. “Well, we’re not. Deal with it.”

Brey told the team to start driving with about eight minutes left. The Irish went on a six-point run to tie the game.

Down 52-50 with 6:10 remaining, junior forward Tyrone Nash hit four free throws in the next minute and a half to take a 54-52 lead, but Howard tied it again with four minutes remaining. Then Jackson took over.

“Tory just figured in the last seven minutes, ‘I’ve got to win the game for us,'” Brey said.
South Florida’s defense recovered from its early lapse and stepped up in the second half. Notre Dame shot 56.5 percent from field goal range in the first half, but only 28.6 percent in the second.

But the Irish made 13-of-15 free throws in the second half, while South Florida only made 4-of-9. The Bulls finished 10-for-20 on the day.

“Had you told me we’d go 50 percent from the free throw line and Dominique Jones would have an off day and we still have a chance to win, I’d be surprised we were still in the game,” Bulls coach Stan Heath said.

Notre Dame jumped on the Bulls early, scoring quickly. Hansbrough made a 3-pointer to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 25-10 with 8:23 left in the first half. But the Bulls, led by Famous, put together a 10-point run to pull within 25-20 with 5:03 left.

Jones hit a 3-pointer to pull South Florida within one with 2:01 remaining in the half, and Fitzpatrick gave the Bulls a 32-31 lead. It wouldn’t last long, because Hansbrough hit a 3-pointer, but two free throws from Jones made tied the score, and the half ended at 34-34.

The win was Notre Dame’s second over a squad that had won four straight and beaten Georgetown and Pittsburgh. Harangody said the win on an off-day was important.

“[It’s good] take two from them, especially when we’re not having our best day today,” Harangody said.

Notre Dame will travel to Seton Hall Thursday. The game will start at 7 p.m.