Jackson scores 27 in Irish victory
Marek Mazurek | Monday, November 16, 2015
The crowd at Purcell Pavilion erupted as the blue and gold banner reading, “ACC Champions 2015,” was unveiled Friday night.
However, there was no championship hangover for No. 19 Notre Dame as it started its season with a 87-56 win against St. Francis (Pennsylvania).
“Certainly, it’s a special night in the history of our program to see that banner drop,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “I told our guys before the game, ‘The Golden State Warriors dropped a banner and then just played their backsides off to start the next season.’ I said, ‘Can we be men enough and focused enough to be a little bit like them?’ And I thought we were.”
The victory was headlined by a career-high 27 points from junior guard Demetrius Jackson on 10-of-14 shooting. Brey said he was impressed by Jackson’s aggressiveness and command of the offense.
“As you can see, it is [Jackson’s] team,” Brey said. “He is in total control of stuff. He’s calling stuff; I didn’t call a whole lot. He was calling sets, entries, out of bounds stuff. … He’s got that ability to score it, to make plays, and then he’s defending. He’s really explosive, he’s really confident. … I thought he did a great job of when to run the team and when to hunt for his own stuff.”
Jackson said while he was happy he scored a career high, his primary goal was to run the offense.
“[The key was] being confident, stepping up and taking shots, but also being a point guard, facilitating and keeping the offense going,” Jackson said. “I think for the most part, all my shots were within the offense. … Ball screens, taking mid-range shots, curls, all those things we worked on on our offense were good to me tonight.”
Though the final score was not particularly close, the Irish (1-0) looked out of sync early in the game with junior guard Steve Vasturia and junior forward V.J. Beachem missing 3-point shots and Jackson committing a couple turnovers.
In addition, St. Francis junior guard Malik Harmon’s jump-shooting kept the Red Flashes (0-1) in the game as he went 2-for-3 on three-point field goals in the first 10 minutes of the game.
However, the Irish finished the half up 38-25 following two three-point plays by senior forward Zach Auguste. Jackson said the key to the turnaround was continued defensive effort.
“Our defense really started to kick in,” Jackson said. “We did a better job of getting stops and rebounds, and then our shots continued to be efficient on offense. When we can do that, we can win a lot of games. It’s important to be consistent on both ends of the floor.”
Coming out of halftime, senior guard Ben Millaud-Meunier scored five straight points for St. Francis to bring the game back to within eight points. The Red Flashes’ spurt was short-lived, however, as the Irish responded with an 8-0 run to push the lead back to 16. The Red Flashes didn’t get closer than 13 the rest of the way.
Auguste finished the night with 15 points and 14 rebounds to record his first double-double of the year. The senior said the key to sealing the game was the battle on the boards, as Notre Dame out-rebounded St. Francis, 53-31, including a 21-8 edge on the offensive glass.
“[I] just really caught my space,” Auguste said. “I had the ball and got to the spots I needed to be and really just had the mentality to attack the offensive and defensive glass.”
Making their collegiate debuts for the Irish were two freshmen, forward Matt Ryan and guard Rex Pflueger. Playing as a stretch-forward, Ryan saw 16 minutes in the game and notched nine points on three 3-point shots.
Beachem said the freshmen, and Ryan in particular, played well in their first game action.
“Especially the way [Ryan] can shoot the ball, we like to stretch the floor and he really fits in with us offensively,” Beachem said. “It was good to see them out there. It was their first real game in front of a good crowd, too, so I know they were excited about it. And it’s good to see them playing well.”
Looking ahead, the Irish take on Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.