JMU takes thriller

Senior guard Humpty Hitchens (Chillicothe, Ohio/Chillicothe) hit the game winner with 12 seconds left and senior forwardJulius Wells (Toledo, Ohio/Libbey) blocked the attempt to tie at the buzzer as James Madison topped Penn 60-58 on Saturday night at The Palestra as part of the Philly Hoop Group Classic.

JMU improved to 3-2 overall after winning its first ever meeting with Penn while the Quakers fell to 3-4.

The Dukes held a 56-50 lead with five minutes remaining in the contest but saw the lead evaporate on Zack Rosen’s deep contested three-pointer with the shot clock running out with 1:38 remaining to tie the score at 58-58.

Hitchens tried to match Rosen on JMU’s next possession but came up empty.  Rosen then again ran the shot clock down but was whistled for traveling beyond the arc with two seconds on the shot clock and 42.9 seconds on the game clock.

After a timeout, JMU spread the court to give Hitchens a chance to drive the paint.  His fadeaway runner from the left side of the lane just snuck over the rim to put the Dukes in front with 12 seconds remaining.

Penn called timeout with 8.5 seconds remaining to set up its final play.  After a frantic series of passes, Mike Howlett found himself open on the right block but Wells converged on help defense and elevated for the clinching blocked shot as the buzzer sounded.

Junior guard A.J. Davis (Columbus, Ohio/Harmony Christian) led all players with 19 points, including the first 14 JMU points of the second half as the Dukes took a 43-39 lead after being tied 29-29 at the break.  He added five rebounds and three steals.  He finished the four-game classic with 91 total points, third most in the event’s five-year history.

Junior forward Andrey Semenov (St. Petersburg, Russia/Blue Ridge School) added 15 points, including 10 in the first half.  Wells added nine points and eight rebounds in addition to his clinching block.  He moved into the top 10 on the all-time scoring list at JMU, climbing from 11th to ninth with 1,367 career points.  Hitchens finished with eight points and five assists while junior guardAlioune Diouf (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern) contributed a career-best nine rebounds.

Rosen had a double-double for Penn with 15 points, 10 assists and two steals.  He was 3-for-5 from the arc, including his late tying trey, while also going 4-for-4 at the free throw line.  Henry Brooks had 10 points, Miles Cartwright sank a trio of threes and Tyler Bernardini added eight points and a team-high nine boards.

Following Davis’ 14 consecutive JMU points to begin the second period, Wells sank a three to put the Dukes up 46-39 for their largest lead of the game.  Then with the Dukes up 49-43, Penn quickly cut the margin to one at 49-48 and took the lead on a pair of Henry Brooks free throws to make it 50-49 with 7:35 remaining.

Madison went back in front on its next trip down the court as Semenov missed a three from the wing but Wells was fouled on the offensive rebound.  The free throws put the Dukes back in front, and after a Rosen missed three, this time Semenov connected on a three.  That was followed by a Hitchens steal and layup for a 56-50 margin with five minutes to go.

The Dukes had a chance to build the difference to eight, however Wells missed a pair of free throws and Rosen then made two to cut it to 56-52.  Marin Kukoc, son of former NBA star Toni Kukoc, hit a three to make it a one-point game.  Wells then hit a pair of free throws prior to Rosen’s deep three to tie the game and set up the hectic finish.

JMU shot 43.5 percent from the field and hit 8-of-20 (40 percent) from the arc.  The Dukes were also 12-for-19 (63 percent) at the line and held a 34-28 edge in rebounding.  Penn shot 40 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from the arc (10-for-22) and 61.5 percent (8-for-13) at the stripe.

The teams played a tightly-contested first half with Penn holding the largest lead at five points.  JMU held a 12-11 lead with 15 minutes to go before a 6-0 run by the Quakers while holding the Dukes scoreless for over four minutes.

The Dukes were still down five at 19-14 when a four-point possession cut it to one as Hood made a free throw.  On his ensuing miss, Diouf grabbed the rebound and found Semenov for a three to make it 19-18.  JMU tied the game at 25-25 and took a 29-29 tie into the break.

After going 2-2 in the Hoop Group Classic, JMU will play its first Colonial Athletic Association contest of the season next Saturday, Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. at Hofstra.


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