JMU wins NCAA Tourney opener
Freshman guard Andre Nation (Plant City, Fla./Faith Baptist Christian School) scored 15 points and added seven rebounds, four assists and a career-high five blocks as the James Madison men’s basketball earned its first NCAA Tournament win in over 30 years, Wednesday. JMU defeated LIU Brooklyn 68-55 in the NCAA First Four at the University Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio.
The Dukes advance to Friday’s Second Round as it takes on the Region’s top seed, Indiana, at 4:10 p.m. They improved to 21-14 while dropping LIU to 20-14.
It had been 30 years and three days since James Madison defeated Ohio State in the 1983 championship. Joining Nation in double figures for the Dukes were senior guard A.J. Davis (Columbus, Ohio/Harmony Community School (Wyoming)) with a game-high 20 and freshman guard Charles Cooke (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic) with 15. Redshirt senior forward Rayshawn Goins (Cleveland, Ohio/Glenville (Cincinnati State)) had a team-best eight rebounds and redshirt senior guard Devon Moore (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) handed out six assists.
NEC Player of the Year Jamal Olasewere finished with a double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to lead the Blackbirds. C.J. Garner chipped in 16 points and four rebounds while Jasmon Brickman led all players with nine assists.
LIU took its only lead of the game, jumping ahead 40-39 with 15:02 remaining in the game on a pair of free throws by E.J. Reed. The Dukes only trailed for 44 seconds before embarking on a 9-0 run spurred by defense and transition buckets. They received fast break layups by Moore, Nation, Davis and Cooke, capping off the run with a three-point play by Cooke.
LIU trimmed the lead back to three following a steal and a layup by Olasewere, but JMU closed the game on a 14-4 run to end the threat.
Madison outrebounded LIU 27-15 in the second half and limited its opponent to just 23.3-percent shooting after the break. The Blackbirds were just 7-of-30 from the field in the second half, including missing all seven of their attempts behind the arc. In contrast, the Dukes shot 48.3-percent (14-29) after the break.
Despite not appearing in the NCAA tournament in 19 years, JMU looked comfortable from the tip, grabbing a 10-2 lead at the first media timeout. By the 11 minute mark, the lead was 20-8 with Davis leading all players with eight points. Cooke added a pair of three-pointers to add six points.
Cooke made two of his five three-point attempts and was 3-for-3 from the free throw line to finish one point shy of his career-high.
Nation helped set a JMU-season-high of 10 blocks by tying his career-high with five. He came into the tournament as one of only three guards averaging more than a block per game. He is one of only seven players in the country to accumulate more than 40 blocks, steals and assists.
The Dukes continued to play solid defense in the first half, forcing several turnovers and blocking a quartet of shots to head into the final timeout with a 30-18 advantage. The Blackbirds responded over the final 3:38 of the half with a 13-2 run to cut the deficit to just one heading into halftime.
Cooke led all players at the break with 10 points, making four of his five shots. Davis had eight points while Nation chipped in with seven, three rebounds and two blocks. Moore contributed five of the team’s eight assists and had three points.
Garner made four of his seven shots to lead LIU with eight points. Brickman, the nation’s leader in assists, handed out six in the first two while Olasewere had six points on 3-of-6 shooting, but picked up his third foul late in the first half.