Winthrop took control in the first half and held James Madison at bay in the second to claim a 69-57 men’s basketball decision on Wednesday evening at TD Arena. Winthrop improved to 5-1 overall while JMU fell to 2-5 with its third straight loss.
Freshman guard Jackson Kent (High Point, N.C./High Point Christian) posted a season-high 16 points and became JMU’s sixth different leading scorer in seven games. Sophomore guard Ron Curry (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) returned from injury to add 15 points and a career-best seven rebounds while sophomore guard Charles Cooke (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic) added 12 while matching a career high with nine rebounds.
Andre Smith led Winthrop with 13 points while Joab Jerome added 11 and Tevin Prescott contributed 10.
The first half ultimately decided the outcome of the game. As has happened in the last three games, JMU grabbed an early but short-lived lead. The Dukes were up 7-0 early and 8-2 at the first media timeout, hitting 3-of-5 from the field to open while the Eagles were 1-for-6.
However, the Eagles strung together seven unanswered points out of the media timeout to move ahead 9-8. That came as part of an overall 13-1 run. After Winthrop struggled early against JMU’s zone defense, the Eagles found holes for baseline threes on four consecutive possessions over a stretch of less than a minute and a half to move ahead 15-9 while grabbing a lead they would not relinquish.
Winthrop stretched the lead to as large as eight at 22-14 with 9:29 remaining when the Dukes started to crawl back. Holding the host scoreless for over four minutes, JMU scored six unanswered to make it 22-20 but Madison’s own turnovers prevented a more significant run.
With the score at 25-22, Winthrop had one more run in the half, stretching the margin to its largest of the period at 35-24 after a 10-2 push. Two free throws by Kent made it 35-26 at the break.
JMU shot 33 percent in the period, 2-for-19 (10.5 percent) after the first three minutes. The Dukes were also 2-for-9 from the arc but stayed within striking distance while going 8-for-11 at the foul line. Cooke and Kent led at the half with seven points apiece.
Winthrop shot 50 percent from the field in the half and was led by Smith with nine points. The Eagles did cool down in the second half, shooting 29 percent for an overall mark of 39 percent, but they were able to fend off each JMU push.
After Winthrop stretched the margin to as high as 14 points early in the second half, a fastbreak lay-in by Kent made it a six-point game at 42-36 with 14:50 to go. Winthrop again pulled up by 11 only to see sophomore Taylor Bessick’s(Philadelphia, Pa./Rise Academy) layup make it a six-point game with 11:23 remaining.
JMU got as close as four point and had multiple opportunities to make it a one-possession game but came up short each time. With four minutes remaining, Bessick had a chance to make it a four-point game with two free throws but instead missed the front end of a bonus situation and watched Winthrop hit a three on the other end for a potential five-point swing. That essentially clinched the decision as the Eagles maintained a margin of at least seven points en route to the 12-point win.
Madison shot an even 33 percent in both halves and went 4-for-20 (20 percent) from the arc. The Dukes were aided by their 77 percent performance at the foul line (17-for-22) but committed a season-high 19 turnovers following 18 in their previous loss at Valporaiso.
The Dukes continue an eight-game road swing on Saturday at Richmond at 6 p.m.