A scene that was very representative of James Madison’s men’s basketball season unfolded in the press room moments after the Dukes’ CAA Tournament Championship win.
The four chairs on the stage were filled by All-Tournament selections Devon Moore and Rayshawn Goins on head coach Matt Brady’s left. The Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, AJ Davis, was seated to the coach’s right.
Moore and Davis were the first to sit down, with Brady taking his seat a few minutes later. Moments later, Goins, rushing to the stage with the championship trophy in hand, found his seat.
Coach Brady made a crack about having to wait for Rayshawn to get back down the court.
Each fifth-year senior wore his CAA Championship hat in a different, illustrative way.
In his nonchalant style, Goins rocked his hat sideways. Because if you know him it all, that’s the fun-loving Ray.
Moore sported his hat backwards, because lately, he’s been the definition of cool and confident on the court.
Davis donned his cap forwards, because recently, he’s been all business on the hardwood.
The three seniors, with classmate Alioune Diouf, started in Monday night’s 70-57 win over Northeastern. The senior quartet combined to score 58 points, with 26 coming from Davis.
The Dukes stifled the CAA-best’s best offensive team, the Huskies, into their least efficient game of the season. The Huskies shot 20-of-54 (37%) and just 3-of-17 from downtown.
JMU shot 16-of-31 in the first half, and raced to a domineering 40-18 halftime lead. Goins had a double-double before the half, and keyed a 20-point advantage for points in the paint. In the first half, It seemed like any 50-50 rebound ended up in the hands of JMU’s 6’6″ power forward.
Davis hit two 3-pointers, but did the majority of his work driving to the basket. The Dukes used a 23-1 run to turn a two-point deficit into a 20-point lead. Northeastern head coach Bill Coen credited JMU’s switching defensive scheme for taking his team out of rhythm.
After the game, Coach Brady said it was probably about as well as his team could have played in the first half, and was possibly the best first half his team has played during his five-year tenure.
Brady also stated before halftime that the Huskies were going to make a run, and that certainly proved to be true.
Northeastern senior Jon Lee, scoreless in the first half, began to slash through the JMU defense, finishing near the rim and picking up fouls in the process. Lee finished the game with 14 points, and started the Husky comeback effort.
Trailing by 19 with 13:26 remaining, the Husky press forced multiple zipless crosscourt passes from the Dukes.
JMU’s next 10 possessions resulted in one dunk and seven turnovers.
Northeastern freshman Derrico Peck, who played just one minute in the semifinal game against George Mason, provided an unexpected spark off the bench. He scored six points on second-chance opportunities during the a 13-2 Northeastern run.
The JMU lead had dwindled to just eight with 8:23 remaining in the game.
The Huskies had the ball with a chance to cut closer, but the possession ended in a turnover. Then, on JMU’s next possession, Northeastern senior Joel Smith fouled JMU freshman Andre Nation on a 3-point attempt. It was the fifth foul for Smith, the All-CAA first teamer and 3-point marksman.
Out of the under-8 media timeout, Nation knocked down the three free throws to stop the bleeding, and pushed the JMU lead back to 11.
Without their best player, it was difficult to see the Huskies coming back at that point. They never got closer than 10, and picked a terrible time to start missing free throws.
The normally-efficient Huskies shot 8-of-17 from the charity stripe in the second half. That’s bad for anyone, especially a team that finished 27-of-27 from the line in a game less than two weeks ago.
It’s tough to see a pair of phenomenal seniors like Lee and Smith, who have spent the last four years building the Northeastern program, miss out on the chance to dance. At least we know the Huskies will continue playing in the NIT.
The Dukes firmed up their sloppy play and eventually pushed their lead back to 19. A trio of Husky dunks in the final 62 seconds made the score look a little better.
Nation finished with 10 points and senior Alioune Diouf scored nine on 4-of-6 shooting. JMU’s starting five combined to score 68 of the team’s 70 points.
Realistically, we shouldn’t be that surprised.
Four years ago, in Brady’s first season, it seemed apparent that this day would come. His first recruiting class, with Moore, Julius Wells, and Andrey Semenov, was JMU’s highest-scoring freshman trio in school history.
Unfortunately, all three were ravaged by injuries at different points in their careers, and only played one semi-full season together (2010-2011).
That was the main thing Brady stressed in his presser Monday night – this was the first season his team had any semblance of continuity.
Yes, having one of your best players (Semenov) play only seven games, and one of your skilled freshman (Charles Cooke) miss only four games in conference play must feel like a pretty good bargain for Brady.
Brady lauded the midseason turnaround from Davis, which truly has been a praiseworthy effort. When Davis was suspended before the seventh game of the season, some may have overlooked it.
At the time, Davis was averaging just 6.6 points per game, and had been relegated from the starting five to the bench.
Starting with an offensive outburst that featured 27 points and seven 3-pointers on February 6th, Davis has averaged 20.5 points over his last ten games.
During that run, he was below 50% shooting twice, and made more than 60% of his shots six times. That run also includes a four-point clunker in JMU’s loss at Drexel on February 10th.
We always knew Davis could score, but his startling efficiency has been a pleasant surprise. The only other question was whether or not he could contribute to the CAA’s best defense. The resounding answer has been yes, as Davis has 18 steals over his last six games.
It would be absolutely remiss to exclude Moore’s heroics.
On the same night that Davis hit seven 3-pointers, Moore tied a career-high with 12 assists. In his final seven games of the regular season and the three in Richmond, Moore averaged 12.6 points, 6.6 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game. It’s even more impressive when you realize the effect he has on defense.
Coincidentally, this came right after dropping a career-high 25 points against George Mason on Groundhog’s Day. Moore is now up to 497 assists in his career.
Moore’s leadership paired with talented, athletic wings, gave this team the ready-made recipe for success in March.
Again, we should not be surprised.
“I will tell you this, it’s not gonna be another 19 years until I’m sitting back up here.”
Now for important citations:
- Mark Selig, Brian Mull, Dan Steinberg , Phil Kasiecki, Bobby Broyles, JMUSports Blog, The Breeze - thank you for the great work you did. (Sub-citations – Stephen Proffitt - for his article in The Breeze, and Griffin Harrington - and his photos for JMU Sports).
- A special thank you to CAA Sports, for all the help you’ve given us, and the great final weekend you in Richmond.
The benefit of putting up that late post on the championship means we got to scope out everyone else’s great work beforehand.
Hopefully we didn’t tread on anyone else’s territory (please tell us if we did).
We apologize for the tardiness in that post – yesterday was travel/schoolwork day.
In the next post, we’ll talk CAA Awards.
Come on, you didn’t think we forgot about our Coach, Player, and Rookie of the Year, did you?