The CAA Tournament’s Most Oustanding Player AJ Davis continued his stellar play. Davis scored a game-high 20 points, and his 3-pointer with 1:34 remaining put JMU up (and Mike Schikman’s hands in the air) by 13 — the winning margin — as JMU picked up its first NCAA Tournament win since 1983 with a 68-55 victory.
If you were expecting a high-scoring, uptempo affair, I’m sorry.
Matt Brady had other plans.
The Dukes had to slow down the nation’s fourth-highest scoring offense. To do that, the Dukes made many, many passes around the perimeter, and never let the LIU-Brooklyn offense get into a groove. Sure, NEC Player of the Year Jamal Olasewere had a 20-10 double-double, but he had to work for each and every basket, and need 18 field goal attempts to get there.
AJ Davis on the game plan against Olasewere:
“It took all five guys on defense. We knew he was a good player. Coach stressed it to us day in and day out, if we wanted to win this game, the defensive game was going to do it for us. We had to be locked in.
That’s what it took for us, all five guys locked in on defense for us to win.”
The Dukes held the Blackbirds to a season-low 55 points. This a team that scored 80+ points in nine of the past 11 games (props to Defiantly Dutch), but shot just 35.6% on Wednesday night.
JMU’s freshmen Charles Cooke and Andre Nation combined to score 29 points, and provided some highlight defensive plays.
Nation had five blocks, and had the people in Dayton raving about his potential. Over here in CAAHoopland, we’ve loved him for awhile.
Regarding LIU-Brooklyn’s smaller guards (5’10″ CJ Garner and 6’0″ Jason Brickman) Nation said the plan was to ”give them space and beat them with our length.”
Garner did score 16 points, but need 15 field goal attempts and four free throws to get there (he twisted his ankle early in the game). Brickman got his nine assists, but was scoreless in the second half.
Coach Brady remarked on his expectations of Nation:
“He’s further along with his basketball IQ than I recognize, but he’s the athlete, and he’s got the basketball ability that I recognized when we started recruiting him. But his basketball intellect and his IQ is much higher than I could have really speculated.
He’s becoming a really good teammate and I think his shot selection is improved. I think he can do more on offense, but he’s willing to wait his turn and just kind of be a role player. The defensive end, obviously, he’s unique for our team and I think even our league.”
Per ESPN Stats, Nation became just the ninth player to finish an NCAA Tournament game with 14 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and four assists.
The other eight? Shaquille O’Neal, Joakim Noah, John Wallace, Josh McRoberts, Ekpe Udoh, Curtis Kelly, Ryan Humphrey and Jason Lawson.
Yeah, Nation’s going to be a good one.
Cooke, who had totaled just two points in the previous four games, got the ball rolling in the first half with a pair of 3-pointers. He had a game-high 10 points at halftime, and had two blocks of his own.
Coach Brady on Cooke:
“He’s a talented young guy. We knew when we recruited him he’s a guy with a lot of potential. He’s got great confidence in his game. He had 15 in previous games this year on six shots.
He’s a long terrific kid who truly just learned how to play. There’s times when I think he’s going to be the best freshman of the group…Charles comes from a great basketball program. He played against some of the best players in the country in AAU basketball.”
Everyone knows that Rayshawn Goins was held out of the first half, which helped LIU-Brooklyn build a +8 advantage on the boards before halftime.
Goins looked a little shaky in his first few offensive touches, but had a big impact in his 13 minutes, finishing with four points and eight rebounds.
There were definitely a few scary moments in this one. After JMU held a 30-18 lead on, LIU-Brooklyn closed the half on a 13-2 run. The run including a trio of 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.
Those were the only 3-pointers the Blackbirds made the entire game (3-of-19), which was subpar for a team that averaged 38.5% from downtown in the regular season.
The Blackbirds took their first lead (40-39) in the second half. JMU responded with a 9-0 run, capped off by Cooke’s 3-point play.
Still, with a little less than nine minutes to play, Devon Moore (five points, six assists, four rebounds) picked up his fourth foul. The Blackbirds had a chance to get back in the game, and cut to within three. But they never really pressed or applied pressure, and JMU closed the game on a 14-4 run.
Alioune Diouf scored eight points and snagged four rebounds. He’s been phenomenal in JMU’s past two games.
Now, JMU will take on Indiana on Friday. We’ll have much more on that (as well as NIT/CBI #CAAHoops updates) tomorrow.