The good news is that attendance for Thursday night’s second round NIT matchup with New Mexico was up roughly 50% from Tuesday night’s first round win over UAB. The bad news is that even with the increase, the Joyce Center still had about 8,000 empty seats Thursday night to see a Notre Dame last second 70-68 win over New Mexico to advance the the quarterfinals of the NIT.
Tory Jackson took an inbound pass with a little over 7 seconds remaining and raced the length of the court for the game winning layup with a little over 2 seconds remaining. A desperation three pointer by New Mexico would come up short to seal the Irish victory. The last second win for Notre Dame came after the Irish built a lead a double digit lead in the first half thanks to some hot three point shooting from Kyle McAlarney early. Notre Dame could not build on that lead in the second half, however, and New Mexico took the lead half way through the second half.
New Mexico held a six point lead with just over 2:00 remaining in the game before an 8-0 run gave the Irish a 68-66 lead with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Notre Dame was led by Luke Harangody’s 26 points and 11 rebounds. Tory Jackson added 16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and the game winner for one of his better games in a while. Said Jackson of his game winner, “We tried to take get a good shot, just anybody who was open. We had seven seconds left, we just wanted to beat them; it happened, and I’m still shocked right now. It was a tough shot, they defended it pretty well. I’m still shocked, I’m still speechless.”
The play was reminiscent of Danny Ainge’s coast to coast drive which knocked the Digger Phelps coached Irish out of the 1981 NCAA Tournament (you know, other than the whole NCAA Tournament vs. NIT thing). Ainge’s layup coast Notre Dame a trip to the Elite 8.
The Irish bench had a fairly quiet game after being an integral part of Tuesday’s win over UAB. Tyrone Nash played just 13 minutes and scored the only 3 points from the Irish bench after logging 25 minutes of playing time in Tuesday’s win. Why Brey isn’t using these NIT games to get some of the younger players more experience remains a mystery to me. These games are golden opportunities to get players like Nash and Carlton Scott some playing time and experience for next year.
The win gives Notre Dame 20 wins on the season to go along with 14 losses. The Irish will play the winner of the winner of Monday’s Creighton-Kentucky game next Wednesday.
Here’s the video of Ainge’s coast to coast game winner from ’81.