Nov. 17, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame’s opponents are quickly learning that, when Demetrius Jackson goes to the hoop, look out below.
The 6-foot-1 Jackson supplied the wow-factor highlight in No. 18 Notre Dame’s 86-78 win Tuesday night over Milwaukee when he drove the baseline in the second half and threw down a one-handed dunk over 6-10 forward J.J. Panoske.
It wasn’t the cleanest dunk, catching part of the rim as Panoske crashed in for the block attempt, but it electrified the home crowd, and his free throw to complete the 3-point play gave the Irish a 17-point lead. Jackson finished with 20 points.
”I wish he got it clean. I think he tried to dunk it too hard,” said V.J. Beachem, who tied a career high with 19 points while adding a career-best eight rebounds for the Irish. ”But we love when he’s attacking the rim and turning the corner like that.”
”It was all right. It could have been cleaner,” Jackson said. ”But the most important thing is the `W.’ We did a lot of great things tonight against a great team.”
Notre Dame (2-0), which moved up one spot in the poll this week, had all five starters score in double figures, including Zach Auguste, who hit 7 of 8 from the field and scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half.
Akeem Springs matched his career high with 21 points for Milwaukee, and Matt Tiby added 16 points and 13 rebounds. The Panthers (3-1) saw their seven-game winning streak, which dated back to Feb. 19 of last season, come to an end, marking their longest winning streak since 2011.
The Irish opened up a 20-point lead with just over 12 minutes to play by hitting 10 of their first 11 second half shots. Milwaukee shot 14-for-21 from 3-point range, including 8-for-12 in the second half to get the final margin into single digits.
”Usually when you absorb 14 threes … you lose those kind of games,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. ”Fortunately, our offensive efficiency was better. We had to score to escape.”
Beachem played a big part in that with what Brey felt was his best game to date. Beachem knocked down four 3-pointers and turned in his own highlight play with a steal and two-handed fastbreak dunk, two minutes into the second half to push Notre Dame’s lead to 12.
”I thought V.J. was fabulous,” Brey said. ”He continues to grow. Rebounding the basketball, stepping up and making big shots for us when we were dying to score in the first half and we were down.”
Milwaukee hit 6 of its first 9 tries from 3-point range and took a six-point lead with 6:13 left in the first half on an Austin Arians 3-pointer, but went the next 5:14 without a point.
The Irish took advantage by scoring 13 straight, and went up 37-29 on Steve Vasturia’s three-point play with 1:19 left before the half. Notre Dame’s defense forced four Panthers turnovers during the run, and held them to 0-for-4 shooting.
”When they decide to turn it up and play at the level that they’re capable of playing, they’re very difficult to handle,” said Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter. ”It all starts with Jackson. An incredible player with the way he finishes above the rim.”
After scoring a career-high 27 points in Notre Dame’s season-opening win over Saint Francis, Jackson enjoyed back-to-back 20-point outings for the first time in his career.
”I just have to stay aggressive, continue to get shots up and continue to be confident in myself and my teammates,” Jackson said. ”I think we can be a great team if we continue to play how we did today.”
Notre Dame: The only other meeting between the Irish and Wisconsin-Milwaukee was in 2003, when they hung on for a 70-69 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Torin Francis had the game-winning tip-in with 32.8 seconds left, and Dylan Page’s layup for the Panthers rolled off the rim at the buzzer.
Milwaukee: This game marked the middle of a run of eight games in the first 13 days of the season. The Panthers won three games over the weekend to claim the Cable Car Classic title at Santa Clara.
Notre Dame faces UMass-Lowell at home on Saturday.