Two games in, Notre Dame's offense already appears in mid-season form.
Notre Dame blew by St. Francis (Pa.) 87-56 in last Friday's opener and shot 57.1 percent in Tuesday's 86-78 win over Milwaukee. The Irish, who were 13th in the nation last season with 78.0 points per game, had 20 assists to five turnovers, leaving Panthers coach Rob Jeter impressed.
"When they decide to turn it up and play at the level that they're capable of playing, they're very difficult to handle," Jeter said. "It all starts with Jackson. An incredible player with the way he finishes above the rim."
Jackson had 20 points and seven assists after finishing with a career-high 27 points and eight rebounds in the opener. The first-team preseason all-ACC selection had a highlight-reel dunk against Milwaukee and has made 18 of 29 shots on the season.
"I just have to stay aggressive, continue to get shots up and continue to be confident in myself and my teammates," Jackson said. "I think we can be a great team if we continue to play how we did today."
Zach Auguste, meanwhile, has picked up where he left off last season when he averaged 16.8 points and shot 70.0 percent in four NCAA Tournament games. The senior forward has totaled 32 points on 14-of-23 shooting.
While Jackson and Auguste are expected to be the catalysts of the Notre Dame offense, V.J. Beachem had an encouraging performance in his third career start Tuesday. The junior forward matched a career high with 19 points, grabbed a career-best eight rebounds, made 7 of 12 shots and was 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
"I thought V.J. was fabulous," coach Mike Brey said. "He continues to grow. Rebounding the basketball, stepping up and making big shots for us when we were dying to score in the first half and we were down."
The Irish trailed by six with six minutes to go in the first half before going on a 16-2 run to take an eight-point lead into the break. While being down was unfamiliar territory for Notre Dame, it wasn't completely surprised to be challenged by a Milwaukee team likely to contend for the Horizon League title.
The Irish likely will not receive the same test from Massachusetts-Lowell (1-1), which is in the third year of a four-year transition into Division I and picked to finish eighth in the nine-team America East Conference.
During their transition period, the River Hawks have been outscored by an average of 27.8 points in losing all five games against teams from major conferences. They opened this season with last Friday's 79-57 loss at Northwestern before defeating Sacred Heart 87-84 on Wednesday.
After blowing a 10-point lead with 10 minutes to go, freshman Isaac White broke the tie with a 3-point play with 1.3 seconds to play.
"This was a really exciting game and an excellent win for our program," coach Pat Duquette told the school's official website. "I was happy with the way we played. Everybody knows we are a young team with eight freshmen, and to win a close game down the stretch is a credit to them.
White leads the River Hawks with 32 points and Jahad Thomas, named to the America East all-rookie team last season, has totaled 28 to go with 17 rebounds.