JMU holds off Towson, 58-56
Towson erased an 18-point first-half deficit but junior guard Devon Moore (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) scored six points in the final 90 seconds as James Madison recovered for a 58-56 Colonial Athletic Association win on Saturday afternoon at Towson Center Arena.
JMU snapped a five-game losing streak to improve to 11-16 overall and 4-11 in the league. Towson dropped to 1-26 overall and 1-14 in the CAA.
The Dukes controlled most of the first half, leading by as many as 18 at 28-10 and ahead 36-21 at the break. Towson started the second half on an 8-2 run to work its way back into the game, cutting the margin to single digits for the first time since the early minutes of the game.
The Tigers cut the lead to five at 46-41 with 9:07 on the clock, but junior forward Andrey Semenov (St. Petersburg, Russia/Blue Ridge School) connected for his fifth three-point field goal of the game to put JMU up by eight.
However, Towson kept up the pressure and held Madison scoreless for the next five and a half minutes. Erique Gumbs, the lone returning letterwinner from a season ago for TU, started the run with a three-point play. Will Adams hit a baseline jumper and Robert Nwankwo added another three-point play to tie it at 49-49 with 4:38 to go. Two free throws by Marcus Damas gave the host its first lead of the game.
Now trailing by two, senior guard Humpty Hitchens (Chillicothe, Ohio/Chillicothe) connected on his fifth trey of the game to put the Dukes back in front by one, 52-51 with 3:20 on the clock. But Nwankwo hit two free throws, his sixth and seventh of the game, to give the Tigers their last lead.
Moore then took over down the stretch for the Dukes. His floater from the left side put the Dukes in front with 1:26 to go. After an air-balled jumper by the Tigers, Moore hit a pair of free throws with 26.4 seconds left for a 56-53 advantage.
Towson’s Kris Walden went to the line with 11.0 seconds to go and hit both to cut the lead before Moore added two more of his own to make it 58-55 with 8.6 seconds remaining.
JMU elected to foul Towson on purpose to avoid a potential tying three-point attempt with 4.6 seconds remaining. Walden hit the first but his miss of the second attempt went out of bounds off a JMU player. With an attempt to tie or take the lead, Marcus Damas’ 12-footer from the left side glanced off the rim as JMU won 58-56.
Moore finished with 10 points and eight assists for the Dukes. Hitchens and Semenov each went 5-for-8 from the arc to finish with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Hitchens added four assists and three steals. Semenov tallied a team-high five rebounds, a career-high four blocks and two steals. The trio combined for 45 of JMU’s 58 points (78 percent).
Nwankwo had a double-double of 15 points and 15 rebounds as JMU has allowed an opposing player to amass at least 15 boards in four of the last six games. Marcus Damas hit three jumpers from the arc to finish with 14 points and six boards. Deon Jones added nine points and six boards.
JMU shot 45 percent for the game while a seldom-used zone defense held Towson to 27.6 percent, the lowest opponent shooting total since limiting Hofstra to 27.1 on Jan. 16, 2002. The Dukes also shot 46 percent from the arc and limited the Tigers to 28 percent.
Towson was able to stay in the game thanks to a rebounding advantage of 30, JMU’s worst rebounding margin since a 31-board advantage for Old Dominion in an 81-43 win for the Monarchs to end JMU’s 2008-09 season in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. The Tigers turned the 49-19 advantage on the boards into a 22-5 showing in second-chance points.
JMU raced out to its second-largest halftime lead of the season, sitting ahead of Towson 36-21 at the break. The Dukes scored the game’s first seven points and proceeded to hold the Tigers without a field goal for a stretch of over 10 minutes to grab a 21-5 lead. The lead hit as high as 18 at 28-10 before Towson got as close as 13 points at 28-15 but consecutive threes by Semenov and Hitchens, the third of the half for each, extended it back to 34-17.
For the half, Hitchens had 12 points while Semenov had 11 as each hit 3-of-4 from the arc while JMU was 6-for-13 as a team. The Dukes shot 50 percent overall from the floor while holding Towson to just six field goals and 23 percent shooting. JMU forced 11 turnovers and committed just one for a 15-0 edge in points off turnovers in the half. Meanwhile, Towson outrebounded the Dukes 25-9 for an 8-2 lead in second-chance points.
JMU plays its penultimate home game of the season on Tuesday when it hosts Georgia State at 7 p.m. on ESPN3.
NOTES: JMU won for the fifth time in six games in the series to improve to 25-10 all-time against Towson… junior guard A.J. Davis (Columbus, Ohio/Harmony Community) saw his streak of 14 straight games in double figures end with six points… Moore pulled into a tie for ninth in career assists at JMU with 294… Semenov climbed into the top 10 for career blocks at JMU, reaching ninth with 81… Hitchens reached seventh for threes in a season with 77.