Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson takes game from good to special

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — He was good for the first 36 minutes of the basketball game.

But the last four minutes, man, Demetrius Jackson found another gear. 

Notre Dame’s 6-foot-1 junior guard was nothing short of special in Wednesday night’s 83-81 Irish victory over Virginia Tech.

Most of the game was an uphill battle for the Irish. Notre Dame trailed by as many as nine early in the second half, and struggled to get over that hump until those final four minutes.

That’s when Jackson amped up his game. He scored seven of his 18 points in a two-minute stretch (4:09 to 2:06) — three layups and a free throw. The first layup ended a zig-zag through the Hokie defense with his elbow well above the rim.

Add to that a steal in which he came up with the ball while in mid-air, leaping over a Hokie, and a pair of assists that generated points.

“I’ve always been a passionate person,” Jackson said. “In (the final four minutes while trailing by four), especially how the team looks at me this year, they expect me to execute in those situations.

“That last media timeout, I was looking to make something happen and to be aggressive.

“I’m trying to stay within myself, knowing what I can do. But, at the same time, not forcing it. If I’ve got an open man, I’m hitting the open man.

“I’m a point guard, so I’m trying to create, whether it’s for myself or for somebody else; create, and then figure out, ‘What are my options here?’”

“(Jackson) is tough as nails,” said Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams. “He’s really hard to keep out of the paint. He plays with great leverage. His strength allows him to do part of that.

“He’s really good on shot-fakes, drawing ‘and-ones.’ Very efficient at the free throw line (3 of 3 Wednesday). He’s a hard guard for anybody.

“He’s got a low center of gravity. He knows when it’s time to get one for somebody else and when it’s time to get one for himself.

“I don’t know how many timeouts were called in the last four minutes, I just kept saying over and over, ‘(Jackson’s) going to shoot, and before he shoots he’s going to pump-fake.’ Most of his shots will be in the paint. That’s what he does.”

What made Jackson’s performance even more impressive was the guy he had to do it against. Seth Allen, a 6-1, 190-pound redshirt junior transfer from Maryland, was probably one of the better guards Jackson will see this season.

He’s fast, quick to the basket, and accurate from long range. Allen had 20 points (15 at halftime) and eight assists, and was tough on the defensive end.

“Seth Allen is a really good guard …,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey. “All these guys love coming after Demetrius. They’ve heard all about him. They’ve heard about his NBA draft stock. They watched him play Saturday (at Duke)….

“Seth Allen couldn’t wait to get his hands on him. He gets that continually. That’s exhausting. He defended him. Seth Allen was hard for him to guard. But, down the stretch, (Jackson) took over the game with his drives. We ball-screened for him. (Jackson) made great physical plays to not let his team lose.”

“Every night I play against a real good guard,” Jackson said. “Every night, chasing people around and doing what I can do to help the team win. It’s about giving all you’ve got and taking care of your body.”

Every night, it’s a matter of picking a time to flip on the switch.

“Good things happen when you’re going downhill (playing aggressively),” Jackson said. “I just wanted to get to the basket a little more.

“We’re growing and getting better. We want to continue to do that. We learned from our earlier game situations. We’re applying that stuff now so we can finish games.”

“(Jackson is) a competitor; a great leader,” said backcourt mate Steve Vasturia. “He knows when he has to turn it on. He does a great job with that. Tonight was a perfect example.”

He went from good to special just in time.

Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson (11) signals a play Wednesday, January 20, 2016, during the Virginia Tech-Notre Dame men's basketball game at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend. Tribune Photo/GREG SWIERCZ