Feb. 21, 2008
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Tory Jackson wouldn’t let himself stumble. He made sure Notre Dame didn’t either.
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.
“He just came out of nowhere with the ball and put it in,” said Luke Harangody, who had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the 21st-ranked Irish on Thursday night in their 82-70 victory. “That was a huge play for us and got us into that mode we needed to be in to make some energy plays.”
Jackson finished with 16 points and a career-high 13 rebounds as Notre Dame overcame an 11-point deficit in the second half.
His teammates praised the play of Jackson, saying he simply wouldn’t allow them to lose. Fellow guard Kyle McAlarney said Jackson energized the Irish.
“He’s yelling, he’s getting loose balls, he’s getting rebounds and he’s making big plays,” McAlarney said.
Pitt was frustrated by the ability of the 5-foot-11 Jackson to rebound.
Jackson and Harangody, both sophomores, remain undefeated at home as the Irish ran their home winning streak to 35 games. Coach Mike Brey conceded that it might have been easy for the Irish to think the streak was coming to an end against Pitt, a team that had beaten Notre Dame five straight times.”The little guard had 13 rebounds,” said Panthers freshman DeJuan Blair, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds.
The Irish trailed 51-40 when Sam Young hit a 14-foot jumper with just under 14 minutes left.
“But we kept finding a way, and I think Tory Jackson’s will at key times made his teammates believe,” Brey said.
Notre Dame responded with a 21-10 run, tying the game at 61 on a 3-pointer by McAlarney with 5:49 left.
Then Harangody stole the ball from Tyrell Biggs at midcourt and drove for a dunk that brought the crowd of 11,418 to its feet. Jackson then hit a 3, and Ayers followed with another 3.”We missed some free throws, we missed some layups, missed a dunk and that obviously can change a game at that point,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.
Notre Dame (20-5, 10-3 Big East) ran its streak of consecutive home wins in league play to 16 games, tying Georgetown (1987-90) for the second longest such streak in the conference. Pittsburgh won 20 straight at home from 2001-2004.
The Panthers (19-7, 7-6), who fell out of the rankings for the first time in two years after a 72-54 loss at Marquette last Friday, lost two straight for the first time since December 2006.
“I’m really steamed,” Blair said. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t remember losing two games in a row. It would have been different if they had been beating us the whole game, but we had it.”
McAlarney scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half and Rob Kurz added 14 points.
Young led Pittsburgh with 20 points, while Keith Benjamin added 15 and Levance Fields, playing his second game after missing 12 games with a broken bone in his foot, had 10.
Brey credited Jackson for the victory.
“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.”