Jackson Makes Family Proud

SOUTH BEND - Tory Jackson pulled down a rebound, raced to the other end, got into the paint in transition, threw a pass around his back to a cutting Rob Kurz for a dunk. Notre Dame's sophomore point guard was settled in, and that was curtains for Long Island on Monday night.

Jackson briefly shook off a heavy heart and a tough start to help Notre Dame take control of the game midway through the first half, in the Irish's 82-50 season-opening victory against the visiting Blackbirds (0-1).

Jackson's uncle passed away from cancer at the age of 49 on Saturday, and the 5-foot-11, 193-pound Jackson wanted to play well for him and his 20 or so family members in attendance. He quickly turned the ball over twice, and coach Mike Brey sat him down for a few minutes.

"I was emotionally, some stuff that happened over the weekend kind of hurt me emotionally, and I was like trying to do a lot myself and try and make somebody proud," Jackson explained.

Jackson certainly made his uncle and his tight-nit family proud.

The Kurz flush put the Irish up 25-16 with 7:24 remaining in the first half. Jackson quickly followed that up with a steal and a lay-up, then a jumper opening up the lead to 31-18. He finished the first half with four points and five assists, after reentering the game with just a little over 12 minutes remaining before intermission.

"I got comfortable," Jackson said. He finished with the four points and dished out a game-high eight assists, as the Irish had 28 assists on 35 baskets. "I got in my zone from there. Helping the team out, I have great teammates that run the floor, and every time we run the floor I can look to either side and know something good is going to happen. I appreciate the love that's around here and the teammates and the way they play."

Jackson was able to get up to his hometown of Saginaw, Mich. on Saturday.

"He was pretty emotional," Brey said. "Saturday night when I talked to him after his uncle passed he was better. Sunday morning he was back. I thought it was healthy for him to get up there and be around his family. I thought he handled that distraction pretty good. I'm sure his teammates rallied a little bit with him.

They did. Kurz netted a game-high 19 points, and Luke Harangody added 15 points. Luke Zeller had 12 off the bench.

As usual, a lot of Jackson's family milled around the locker room after the game.

"It was therapy for the whole family to be here," Brey said. "Sometimes when it's therapy for the whole family to watch Tory play, I don't want the weight of the world on his shoulders in having to be the therapist. I said look, just relax tonight. I understand you have everybody here, smile a little bit while you play and have fun.

Jackson was smiling after the game.

***Jackson also grinned when he drove the basket in transition and had a lay-up carom off the backboard that was dunked by a trailing Zach Hillesland.

"They should've counted it as an assist when I threw it off the glass," Jackson said. "I guess they made it that I missed a lay-up. It was a pass."

***Harangody better get used to it. A lot of the time the 6-foot-8, 251-pound sophomore forward touches the ball this season, he's going to get a quick double team. That was Long Island's plan, and it briefly worked.

Harangody was called for an early travel, and turned the ball over five times. But he settled in, and dished out three assists on top of his 15 points. He also did a good job of banging around and getting a few tough buckets around the rim.

"I'm going to have to get used to getting double teamed this year so I need to get relaxed in the post, get my bearings, and look over my shoulder to see who's coming when I get the ball," Harangody explained.

Harangody finished 7-of-12 from the floor.

"Yesterday he had four assists in practice," Brey stated. "I think today he was so wired and this was the first time in a game he's seen a double team that just ran and clamped him. We got to do a little more of that in practice because he's going to face that.

"Last year he was not very good or poised throwing it out. In practice he's been better. He's got to be a little calmer kicking the ball out. I thought as the game went he was a little calmer."

***Including the two exhibition games, it hasn't taken the 6-foot-9 Kurz long to get into the flow of the contests. He had 11 points and six rebounds in the first half, as the Irish built a 39-23 lead.

"I was just able to get some easy looks," the senior captain stated. He was 5-of-8 shooting in the first half and finished 8-of-12. "I tried to run the floor hard and get some easy baskets in transition, and things kind of went my way fortunately and I was able to knock down some shots."

***Freshman Ty Proffitt was in street clothes because of a severe groin pull. Brey said they're going to be cautious, but that the 6-foot-4 guard could be practicing by Wednesday in the Virgin Islands. The Irish next play Monmouth on Friday night in the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam.

Proffitt's classmates Tyrone Nash and Tim Abromaitis made their collegiate debuts. They each scored two points.

It's likely that freshman forward Carleton Scott is going to red-shirt.

***Before the game, Brey was awarded his Big East Coach of the Year award, after guiding the Irish to a fourth-place finish in the conference. Notre Dame ended the campaign 24-8, 11-5 in the league, and making its first trip to the NCAA tournament in three seasons.

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