Men’s Basketball: Closing statement
Bill Brink | Thursday, March 4, 2010
When it was over, Tory Jackson grabbed a microphone and verbalized his performance to the Purcell Pavilion the only way possible — he screamed at the top of his lungs.
Jackson smiled his way through a second half filled with reverse layups and forced turnovers and drove the Irish to a 58-50 win over Connecticut Wednesday.
“Isn’t it fitting that Tory Jackson would not let us lose on Senior Night?” Irish coach Mike Brey said.
Jackson scored 22 points and had four steals. Points weren’t cheap in this game: The first half ended with Connecticut ahead 20-17. Notre Dame trailed by three despite shooting 23.5 percent in the first half, making 1-of-11 3-pointers and attempting no foul shots.
In the second half, however, Jackson scored 20 points and the Irish shot 61 percent from field goal range.
“I didn’t want to go out that way,” Jackson said.
The Irish (20-10, 9-8 Big East) have now won three straight games, all without the help of senior forward Luke Harangody, who has a bone bruise in his knee that is taking some time to heal.
With the loss, Connecticut fell to 17-13 (7-10). Junior forward Carleton Scott had a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. He blocked three shots, and Brey said he altered about five more.
“I want him to alter shots,” Brey said. “I told him I don’t care if you goal-tend two or three.”
Huskies freshman guard Kemba Walker scored 15 points, but senior forward Stanley Robinson had only six points in 35 minutes and senior guard Jerome Dyson shot 2-of-14 from the field.
Notre Dame struggled to find good shots early in the game. Connecticut’s size made penetrating the paint difficult. The score stayed close early, but a 9-0 Huskies run gave Connecticut a 13-6 lead and forced Notre Dame to take a timeout with 10:46 left in the half.
Notre Dame battled back, and four quick points from junior forward Tim Abromaitis, a big dunk and a transition layup, cut the lead to 18-14 with 7:28 remaining.
The scoring remained limited in the rest of the half: Connecticut led 20-14 with 5:44 remaining in the half and no one scored until Scott hit a 3-pointer with 2:44 left to cut the lead to three. Notre Dame was 0-for-8 from 3-point range until this point.
Then Jackson took over.
Notre Dame took the lead in the first two minutes on a reverse layup from Jackson and Scott’s second 3. A pull-up jumper from Jackson uncorked the Purcell Pavilion noise and forced a Connecticut timeout. Jackson scored 11 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, while Connecticut scored only six points in that span, and Notre Dame led 37-26 with 9:54 remaining.
“I love it,” Scott said of Jackson’s explosion. “We see him in practice, we know he’s capable.”
Jackson said he felt he had to step up, specifically because Walker was guarding him.
“I had a young guy guarding me, so I had to take advantage of it,” he said. “I felt like I had to use my power drive on him.”
The Irish held the ball for a long time to slow the game down in the second half, Brey said.
“Offensively we were into, ‘Burn it to single digits, ball screen for Tory,'” he said.
Notre Dame led 43-32 with 5:58 remaining after senior guard Ben Hansbrough’s two free throws, his first points of the game. Jackson’s layup with 2:13 left put Notre Dame ahead by 12, but Dyson and Walker cut the lead to six with 54 seconds remaining.
That was as close as they would get.
Brey said the team has made a good push towards NCAA Tournament consideration, both because of its play and because of the strength of the conference.
“We should have the most teams in the Tournament,” he said. “I think we’ve got nine or 10. We certainly have a very powerful resume now.”
– Brey said Harangody will be re-evaluated in the next few days and his status for the game at Marquette Saturday could change. He said the chances were slim, but he wanted to leave the door open because there has been improvement.