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Sports

Jackson’s 20 points spark Irish second-half outburst

| Friday, March 27, 2015

CLEVELAND — On a day when Notre Dame inflicted several of what Irish head coach Mike Brey called “lightning strikes” on Wichita State, it was sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson who provided the opening jolt.

Twice.

Jackson hit four 3-pointers Thursday night, but his beyond-the-arc scores sparked two opportune runs for No. 3 seed Notre Dame (32-5) in its 81-70 victory over No. 7 seed Wichita State (30-5).

Nearly two minutes into the game, Jackson hit a 3-pointer to put the Irish up 5-0. Twelve seconds later, he stroked another 3-pointer to give the Irish a six-point lead, helping launch a run that would give Notre Dame a 20-7 advantage to open the game.

“Demetrius Jackson is so good off the bounce, and we were able to keep him out of the paint and away from the rim for the most part, but then he knocks down four 3s,” Wichita State head coach Greg Marshall said. “At the beginning of the game, it started with him — he made two of the first three 3s.”

Irish sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson splits a pair of Wichita State defenders during Notre Dame's 81-70 victory in the Sweet 16.Kevin Sabitus | The Observer

Irish sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson splits a pair of Wichita State defenders during Notre Dame’s 81-70 victory in the Sweet 16.

Jackson’s second boost of energy would come at a time when the Irish needed a jumpstart a little bit more. After carrying a three-point lead into halftime, Notre Dame got off to a slow start in the second stanza. Behind eight combined points from senior forward Darius Carter and junior guard Fred VanVleet, the Shockers had taken their first lead of the game at 38-37 with 16:40 remaining.

And then Jackson got going again.

He hit a 3-pointer from the corner to get Notre Dame back in the driver’s seat. And he followed that up the next possession with a long shot from beyond the arc to give the Irish a five-point cushion, one they would never relinquish.

“We went to [Jackson] a little bit more,” Brey said of the team’s second-half strategy. “[Wichita State] took [Notre Dame senior guard] Jerian [Grant] away on the ball screen; they were doing a good job on him.

“We kind of went to [Jackson] off the ball screen, and he just kind of exploded for us.”

Jackson scored the first six points of Notre Dame’s second “lightning strike,” a 23-10 run over the course of nearly seven minutes that started with the Irish trailing and ended with them leading by a dozen.

Such “lightning strikes” reflect Notre Dame’s mentality as a team of tough competitors, something Jackson displays, Brey said.

“Demetrius was in an attack frame of mind, so we can get into those [offensive] flows at any time,” he said. “And then we do have — this group is cruel, and I love it, it’s a great trait.

“They’re really cruel competitors.”

Jackson dribbles around a Wichita State defender during Notre Dame's 81-70 win over the Shockers at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.Kevin Sabitus | The Observer

Jackson dribbles around a Wichita State defender during Notre Dame’s 81-70 win over the Shockers at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Jackson’s second-half efforts were necessary to help open up the floor and get Notre Dame’s other scorers out in space, according to Brey.

“I thought what was a key was Demetrius got going — and he got us going, and then we came back around to Jerian and the ball screen, and they were a little tired, they couldn’t quite guard the ball screen,” Brey said.

Jackson finished the game with 20 points, just two shy of his career-high. The four 3-pointers made also tied his collegiate single-game best.

Jackson said the key to his quick-strike success involved crisp and efficient team play from the Irish.

“We really do a great job sharing the ball, finding a great shot every possession,” he said. “The guys step up and make huge shots.

“It’s a really fun way to play when we play the game that way, so we want to continue doing that and continue getting better.”

VanVleet said the Shockers even came into the game willing to give Jackson deep looks so that he wouldn’t get too many points driving to the basket.

“That was our game plan going in — he’s so quick off the dribble, just pick him up at the 3-point line, and if he makes four or five of them, that was our game plan going into the game,” VanVleet said. “… I think that was a guy that we would let take that shot, and he knocked them in … so give him all the credit.”

Jackson and the Irish will face No. 1 seed Kentucky in the Midwest regional final on Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

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About Brian Hartnett

Brian Hartnett is a senior marketing major and journalism, ethics and democracy minor. The Carroll Hall resident hails from Clark, New Jersey and covers Notre Dame football, as well as other University topics.

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