The Irish Hang On, Move On

Notre Dame advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT with a 70-68 win over New Mexico. Tory Jackson provided a thrilling end to the game with a coast-to-coast drive in the final seconds.

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame point guard Tory Jackson, who was unable to convert when he had the ball in his hands on the final play of regulation against Louisville earlier in the season, may have made up for it on Thursday.

Jackson drove the length of the court in five seconds and squeezed up the winning shot with 2.2 seconds left to give the second-seeded Irish a 70-68 win over No.3 New Mexico in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament at the Joyce Center.

New Mexico's Tony Dandridge saw his halfcourt desperation heave rim out at the buzzer, giving Notre Dame the win and sending Jackson running into the arms of his brothers who were sitting behind the Irish bench.

"We finally got the Danny Ainge play back 25 years later," Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said.

Jackson, who did not know what his coach was referring to, was able to shed some light on his feelings despite describing himself as speechless.

"We tried to get a good shot, just anybody that was open," Jackson said. "We had seven seconds left and I just felt like I could beat him and it happened. I'm still shocked."

Jackson's shot keeps Notre Dame's goal of ending its disappointing 2008-09 season on a high note alive.

Notre Dame's next game will come on Wednesday. The Irish (20-14) will either travel to top-seeded Creighton (27-7) or host No. 4 Kentucky (21-13) in the NIT quarterfinals. The Bluejays and the Wildcats will play their second round game on Monday at Creighton. The Lobos' season ends with a 22-12 mark.

"We're thrilled to advance," Brey said. "For this team to get to 20 wins against the toughest schedule in the history of our program, I'm really proud of them."

Luke Harangody led the Irish with 26 points and 11 rebounds while Jackson added 16 points and Kyle McAlarney chipped in with 11.

Daniel Faris and Dairese Gary led New Mexico with 15 points apiece while Phillip McDonald contributed 11 and Chad Toppert tossed in 10. The Irish held Dandridge, the Lobos' leading scorer, to just five points.

Notre Dame controlled the game in the first half, but had to wrestle the game away from New Mexico in the end after the Lobos played the with the lead for the majority of the game's final minutes.

Brey said that the game was more exciting than any on CBS during the day and Harangody said that it had a NCAA feel to it.

"People don't realize this about that NIT, but it can be exactly like that," Harangody said. "I had a blast out there."

Notre Dame had a 34-24 lead after the first half, but New Mexico cut into that margin at the start of the second half. Harangody scored Notre Dame's first 10 points after halftime, but a pair of nifty drives from Gary and a couple three-pointers from McDonald and Roman Martinez cut the Irish lead to just four, 42-38, with 15:30 left.

Dandridge picked up a loose ball on a mishandle by Harangody on one end and scored on the other to pull the Lobos to within a bucket, 42-40, a minute later. Harangody slammed home a rebound off a missed three-pointer and Jackson made a spinning layup in the lane to push the lead back to six.

But after a Toppert three cut the lead in half and Faris tipped in an offensive rebound, New Mexico took the lead 48-46 when Toppert hit another deep bomb with 11 minutes left.

Jackson put the Irish back on top with a three-pointer on Notre Dame's next trip and three free throws from Ryan Ayers gave the Irish a 52-48 lead with under 10 to play, but three inside buckets from Faris put New Mexico up 54-52 with 7:30 to play.

A Zach Hillesland bucket pulled the Irish even, but four straight free throws from Faris put New Mexico ahead again. Hoops from Harangody and Jackson tied the game again, but the Lobos responded with an 8-2 run to take a 66-60 lead into the last two minutes.

The Irish came back with six straight points to the game.

With the score tied 66-66 and less than 30 seconds remaining, Harangody came down with a huge defensive rebound and was fouled by New Mexico's A.J. Hardeman. Harangody made both free throws to give the Irish a 68-66 advantage.

Harangody grabbed another defensive rebound on New Mexico's next trip, but had to throw it away as he was falling to the ground, giving the Lobos another chance. Ayers was whistled for a foul with eight seconds left, sending Gary to the line where he calmly tied the game before Jackson's winner.

"I never thought we could get away from them," Brey said. "They're just too good a team and they're too good offensively, but I give our guys a lot of credit again. It doesn't look real good there at the three or four-minute mark, but they find a way."

The Irish jumped out to a 15-3 lead five minutes in as Jackson scored seven quick points and McAlarney drained a pair of three-pointers in the opening minutes. The Lobos managed to muster some offense, but a Harangody hook shot followed by a dunk from the All-American pushed Notre Dame in front 26-12 with 7:34 left in the half.

But the Lobos cut the deficit to 32-24 with a minute to go in the half as McDonald scored eight points in a five-minute span, including a pair of breakaway dunks. A Harangody bucket on Notre Dame's final possession and a block from the junior on New Mexico's final chance helped the Irish hold a 34-24 advantage at intermission.

Harangody and McAlarney led Notre Dame with nine points apiece in the first half while Jackson added seven.

McDonald led the Lobos with eight and Martinez chipped in with five, but Dandridge was held to just one point and missed all four of his first-half field goal attempts. New Mexico's Nate Garth injured his lower back when his shot was swatted by Harangody on the last Lobos' last possession of the half and he did not return.

New Mexico was just one for nine on three-point attempts while the Irish made four of their 11 trifectas in the first half.


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