James Madison’s defense turned Princeton’s 62 percent first-half shooting into 16 percent in the second half while rallying from a 20-point first-half deficit to record a 65-64 win on Monday night in the Harrisonburg Subregional of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic at the JMU Convocation Center.
JMU improved to 2-1 and won its home opener while Princeton fell to 1-2. Earlier in the day, Bucknell (2-3) defeated Presbyterian (1-3) by a final count of 71-47.
Senior forward Denzel Bowles (Virginia Beach, Va./Kempsville) was nearly unstoppable throughout the night for the Dukes with a double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds. He hit 11-of-14 field goals, 7-of-9 free throws and added four blocks and two assists in 38 minutes. His two free throws with 28 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winning points.
Bowles’ effort helped the Dukes to their biggest comeback in 10 seasons by overcoming a 20-point deficit. JMU last fought back from 20 points down on Nov. 20, 2000 when it trailed VMI 37-15 and came back for an 87-69 win.
On this night, JMU trailed by as many as 20 at 45-25 with 4:37 to go in the first half with Princeton shooting a blistering 68 percent at that juncture (17-of-25).
The Dukes increased the defensive pressure and cut the 20-point margin to 47-34 at the break. JMU kept the pressure in the second half and used a 15-0 run as part of an overall 28-5 onslaught to grab its first lead at 53-50 with 10:59 to go. Junior guard Humpty Hitchens (Chillicothe, Ohio/Chillicothe) was big on the run with a pair of three-pointers and a conventional three-point play.
Princeton hit its first field goal of the second half one minute later (9:50 to go). The margin remained tight at no more than four points in JMU’s favor until the Tigers pulled within one at 61-60 on a Dan Mavraides free throw with 1:58 remaining.
JMU sophomore guard Devon Moore (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) hit a pair of free throws to put the Dukes up 63-60 with 1:23 to go. On Princeton’s next possession, Ian Hummer was fouled on the baseline by JMU junior forward Julius Wells (Toledo, Ohio/Libbey). Hummer hit the first free throw and missed the second, with Kareem Maddox pulling in the offensive rebound. Douglas Davis then hit a three in the corner to give Princeton its first lead in over eight minutes at 64-63.
On the next JMU possession, Bowles was fouled at the top of the key and hit a pair of free throws with 28 seconds remaining to put the Dukes ahead 65-64. Princeton called timeout with 25 seconds remaining. On its final possession, with time ticking away and the Tigers unable to find their first options, a pass into the paint was swatted away by Hitchens as the final two seconds went off the clock.
Over the final 24 minutes and 37 seconds, JMU managed to hold Princeton to 17 percent shooting (4-of-23), including just three field goals on 19 attempts in the second half. The Dukes shot 41 percent from the field for the game and hit 81 percent of their free throws (13-of-16).
In addition to the 29 points and 10 rebounds for Bowles, Moore had 12 points and three assists for the Dukes while Hitchens added 11 points and four rebounds. Wells had six points, six boards, and a career-high six assists.
Davis led Princeton with 18 points while Hummer added 12 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals.