NOTRE DAME, Ind. – An hour after Notre Dame’s 83-81 survival of Virginia Tech, Demetrius Jackson spilled back onto the court to meet friends and family. Dressed in a black comic book t-shirt that was half Superman, half Batman, the Irish point guard mixed with his entourage before exiting Purcell Pavilion.
At this hour Jackson didn’t have to wear Under Armour and his wardrobe change fit. Jackson had leapt over Virginia Tech in a single bound. He’d pulled a three-game win streak out of a potential burning wreck that could have minimized last weekend’s win at Duke.
Notre Dame (13-5, 4-2) continues to be right with Jackson running the show, a point guard who can look like an NBA prospect one minute and a superhero the next, especially if those minutes are the final ones.
A Jackson free throw with 3:25 remaining on Wednesday night granted Notre Dame its first lead since late in the first half. His drive a possession later gave the Irish something more valuable, the confidence they would beat the Hokies.
“We see that dog in him,” said Zach Auguste, who finished with 22 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. “Also we see that great leadership in him. He’s a great quarterback for us. When we have the ball in his hands, we’re all very confident.”
Jackson finished 7-of-11 from the field for 18 points, four assists, two rebounds and two steals. There was nothing Notre Dame accomplished in its comeback from an eight-point halftime deficit that the junior did not touch.
Steve Vasturia’s 14 points – 10 came in the second half – and Bonzie Colson’s uber efficient 15 points helped. So did Rex Pflueger’s 18 minutes of convincing role play and V.J. Beachem’s two triples. But it was Jackson who got Notre Dame ahead of the game within the ACC with a shot to improve Saturday against woeful Boston College.
“Just be aggressive,” Jackson said. “Good things happen when we’re going downhill, so I just wanted to get to the basket a little bit more.
“Just being a point guard. Just trying to create, whether it’s for myself or somebody else.”
The Irish needed it all after the Hokies slashed them in the first half, driving to 24 points in the paint with little resistance. Guard Seth Allen matched Jackson most of the game with 20 points while small forward Zach DeLay led Virginia Tech (12-7, 4-2) with 22.
Buzz Williams’ rebuilding program not only cut up Notre Dame’s defense, it bogged the Irish down too, at least in the first half. Auguste struggled to adapt to Virginia Tech’s ball screen defense until halftime. Jackson and Vasturia floated around the perimeter until they attacked at the end.
Now the Irish have back-to-back-to-back league wins, although none came easy.
“We’re thrilled to be 4-2,” said head coach Mike Brey. “We’re fortunate to be 4-2.”
Notre Dame is because it owns one of the best point guards in the ACC and some complementary pieces that fit together just in time Wednesday night. That was enough against Virginia Tech, although the Hokies’ potential game-winning three-pointer rimmed out as time expired.
The Irish will take it regardless.
“Just having the will to win,” Jackson said. “I’ve always been a passionate person. Especially the way the team looks at me this year, they look at me to execute in those situations. Just looking to be aggressive and make some things happen.”
On Wednesday night, Jackson did.