Thursday, June 2, 2011

Do You Believe Now?

The rock band ACDC’s song “TNT” is dynamite. ND’s version of TNT is Tory, No Turnover, which equals huge win for the Fighting Irish against Pittsburgh, 82-70. Jackson finished with 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds as Notre Dame overcame an 11-point deficit in the second half to keep pace with the frontrunners for the top spot in the Big East. What was even more impressive was the fact that he had no turnovers in 37 minutes of action. That’s right, zero, zip, zilch, nada!

On a night where Notre Dame was honoring one of their all-time greats in Austin Carr, Jackson put on quite a show. One play in particular in the second half changed the momentum the Irish’s way, and turned the crowd into a frenzy. Jackson was dribbling toward the basket when his foot hit a Pittsburgh player's foot near the free throw line and he appeared to lose control of the ball. Suddenly he pulled it in, squeezed between two defenders and went in for a layup that cut the lead to three points.

Jackson’s classmate Luke Harangody also had another spectacular outing with a game-high 23 points and 12 rebounds. Harangody also had two steals, with one resulting in a thunderous dunk during the Irish’s 21-10 run.

Notre Dame handed Pittsburgh their first, back-to-back loses this season. In fact this is only the sixth time in Jamie Dixon’s career that the Panthers have dropped two straight contests. The last time they lost two in a row was December of 2006. Good defense down the stretch and a re-energized JACC crowd impeded the Panthers path to victory. Pittsburgh went nearly 5 minutes without a field goal over the final 6:30, while the Irish were hitting big time 3pt. field goals and making their free throws.

The Irish made 18-of-20 free throws, while Pitt continued to show why they are one of the worst in the country by making only 61.1% (11-of-18). Notre Dame also won the battle of the boards 41-35.

Kyle McAlarney hit two key 3pt. baskets down the stretch as he had a rough night shooting. Despite making only 4-of-12 from the floor, McAlarney ended the night with 15 points. Senior captain Rob Kurz made it two straight key performances with 14 points and 5 rebounds. But this night belonged to Jackson.

"He's got just a will about him and heart," Brey said. "He's a winner. He really is a winner, and I think he gives his teammates confidence with the will he has." That could be deadly for Irish opponents, as he is peaking at the right time for a huge championship run. So here’s a warning to the rest of the Big East Conference: Tory Jackson got his groove back!

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