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January 10, 2009

Extra effort required to top Pirates

Tory Jackson went barreling into a cameraman during the first half against Seton Hall while hunting a loose ball. It appeared to be the kind of energy play Notre Dame would use to blow out the woeful Pirates on Saturday at the Joyce Center.

Not so much.

Turns out Jackson's hustle, quantified by his 18 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, was a compulsory effort. Notre Dame needed it all to secure an 88-79 win.

"He's got so much energy," said guard Kyle McAlarney. "We need that because we're not the most athletic or the best defensive team, but when we have high energy it starts with him because he's such a sparkplug."

Jackson's stat line fired Notre Dame to 45th straight win inside the Joyce Center and 20th consecutive victory here over Big East competition. That ties the conference standard set by Pittsburgh from 2001-04.

Reigning Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody did his usual part with 30 points and 16 rebounds. He's the first Notre Dame player to hit for at least 20 points in eight straight games since Kelly Tripucka did it in 1980. That's also seven double-doubles in the past eight games.

"I hope we understand what we're seeing here," said head coach Mike Brey. "This is really a very special guy, a very, very special guy. Certainly his motor kept us believing the whole second half."

Thirteenth-ranked Notre Dame (12-3, 3-1) found itself trailing seven different times after intermission against Seton Hall (9-7, 0-4), which shot 50 percent for the game despite a woeful afternoon from leading scorer Jeremy Hazell. The sophomore didn't start because of a coach's decision and hit 3-of-12 shots for 12 points. He added a technical foul for good measure.

If Notre Dame's defense couldn't do the job, its rebounding did. The Irish blasted the Pirates on the boards in the second half 26-15. Harangody finished with seven offensive rebounds.

"That offensive rebounding clinic that he put on in the second half, I don't know if I've seen something like that," Brey said. "His will to chase it down and get us another possession was key."

Hard to believe Harangody went 22:40 between field goals from early in the first half to the midway point of the second.

"It just wasn't my day, that's all I can say," Harangody said without irony. "I looked at (the 30 points, 16 rebounds). I'm just embarrassed by 8-for-23."

But the Irish needed more than the skills of Jackson and Harangody to put away the Pirates. A healthy dose of composure finished the job as Seton Hall failed to keep its head with a technical foul and intentional foul during the second half.

When Mike Davis clobbered Harangody with an intentional foul with 7:43 to play it helped Notre Dame build a lead they'd never relinquish. The Pirates had led 42-41 at halftime.

"You almost have to play perfect basketball to beat them," said Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez.

Seton Hall didn't come close even though it hung with a Top 20 team for the second straight game. The Pirates lost in overtime to Villanova on Jan. 6.

"I think our maturity showed a little bit," McAlarney said "We were very capable of beating them by a good amount tonight. I think we realized that we weren't going to go on a huge run to put us up by a lot because they were making some tough shots and some tough plays."

Notre Dame countered with an edge of its own, something Seton Hall and an unfortunate cameraman were forced to absorb.



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