Time for Demetrius Jackson to bump shot slump
NEW YORK — Subbed for during the second half of an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal game against North Carolina that ultimately spiraled out of control, junior guard Demetrius Jackson slapped hands with everyone on the Notre Dame bench as he normally does when exiting.
Only when he took his seat did the Mishawaka native stray from the script.
Soon after sitting, Jackson pounded his left hand on his left thigh: once, twice, three times. Frustration that had quietly festered for much of college basketball’s most important month was starting to spill out.
Forced to watch the final few minutes of a game that the Irish lost by 31 points, Jackson didn’t hide his disappointment. He had to take better care of the ball, had to be better making the right decision at the right time, had to make a shot. Just had to play better.
“He was really emotional on the bench the last five minutes of the North Carolina game,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “It’s the first time I’ve seen him like that. He was just really upset.
“He wants it so bad for his team.”
Heading into Friday’s first-round NCAA Tournament game in Brooklyn, N.Y., the 6-foot-1 Jackson has been fighting a losing battle of late with his shot. Everything about it still feels good. His form looks the same. He’s getting lift in his legs, arc on the shot. He’s confident that the next one is going in. Then it doesn’t.
Since connecting on four of eight attempts in a late-season loss at Florida State, Jackson is 13-of-48 (27 percent) from the field, 4-of-21 (19 percent) from 3 in his last four games. In the two ACC tournament games last week, Jackson shot 4 of 20 from the floor, 1 of 8 from 3.
“I have to be better for my team,” Jackson said. “Half the battle is just mental. You just have to have the mentality and the mindset that your next look will go in and that when you have a good look, you can step up and knock it down.”
In an effort to help Jackson get going in Friday’s tournament opener, Brey likely will start a different lineup. It would feature only one big – power forward Zach Auguste. Going small opens everything up and allows Jackson more room to see the floor and create. It also gives him more of a clearer choice of pulling up with a mid-range jumper that has long been close to automatic or driving it, where he can draw fouls and get to the free throw line.
“He’s taking good shots; I want him to keep taking them,” Brey said. “He can get on a run.”
Jackson leads the Irish in scoring (15.5), assists (4.8) and minutes (35.6).
Soon after seeing the Notre Dame name pop up in the East Region bracket during Sunday’s tournament selection show, Irish swingman V.J. Beachem headed out with trainer Skip Meyer on a trip to the dentist.
The junior took an elbow to his face during the North Carolina loss. It caused much discomfort around his mouth once the Irish traveling party returned late Saturday from Washington.
“He got bumped in a tooth that was capped and had a root canal and his face swelled up,” Brey said. “We can calm that down. I don’t think it’s going to be a major issue.”
Nor will be Beachem’s right wrist, which he hurt late in the second half of the North Carolina game after he was fouled attempting a right-handed dunk. Beachem banged the ball off the front of the rim before falling awkwardly to the floor. He got up holding his wrist in obvious discomfort, then missed his two free throws.
Beachem averaged a team-high 15 points with 1.5 rebounds in the two ACC tournament games.
Notre Dame (21-11) is making its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance during Brey’s 16 seasons in South Bend, but this one comes with a first-time twist.
The Irish have spent the three days following Selection Sunday not having any idea who they would play Friday. That allowed them plenty of time to worry about just themselves, and also caused Brey’s staff to juggle its usual scouting/game preparation plans.
Rod Balanis was in charge of breaking down Tulsa; Anthony Solomon had Michigan. Martin Ingelsby dissected video of Notre Dame’s two possible second-round opponents – Stephen F. Austin and West Virginia.
Notre Dame leaves Wednesday for New York. Brey worried earlier this week that the NCAA, which coordinates the travel for all tournament teams, would have the Irish traveling while the Michigan-Tulsa, one of the First Four games in Dayton, Ohio, was in progress.
“I don’t want to be in the air,” Brey said. “I’d like to be the hotel watching it with my staff.”
Brey should get his wish. Notre Dame’s traveling party is scheduled to leave South Bend via charter flight around 1 p.m. Wednesday.
WHO: No. 6 seed Notre Dame (21-11) vs. No. 11. Michigan (22-12) or No. 11 Tulsa (20-11).
WHERE: Barclays Center (17,732), Brooklyn. N.Y.
WHEN: Friday at 9:40 p.m. (approximately).
RADIO: WSBT (960 AM, 96.1 FM).
ONLINE: Follow every Notre Dame game with live updates from Tribune beat writer Tom Noie at twitter.com@tnoieNDI.