Senior forward Jerrelle Benimon recorded 28 points and 16 rebounds and Towson went 30-for-31 at the free throw line to pull out a 69-66 victory over JMU in a Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball game on Wednesday night at the JMU Convocation Center.
TU won its fifth in a row to improve to 21-9 to tie its program record for wins at the Division I level and climbed to 12-3 in the CAA. JMU fell to 11-18 overall and 6-9 in the CAA. With one game remaining in the CAA schedule, the Dukes sit in a three-way tie for fifth in the league standings with the College of Charleston and Northeastern and are locked into the fifth through seventh seeds.
In the last of his 55 career games at the Convo, graduate forward Andrey Semenov (St. Petersburg, Russia/Blue Ridge School) turned in the third-highest scoring total of his career with 22 points while also matching his career high of six 3-pointers on 11 attempts. He was 7-for-13 overall from the floor to go with five rebounds, two assists and a block.
Sophomore guard Charles Cooke (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic) joined Semenov in double figures with 15 points, including going 8-for-9 from the free throw line. He added four rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal. Sophomore guard Andre Nation (Plant City, Fla./Faith Baptist Christian) chipped in 10 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.
Benimon posted his 19th double-double of the season to remain in the national lead. He was 9-for-19 from the floor and 9-for-10 at the line with the lone miss of the night. Guard Rafriel Guthrie added 16 points with 10-for-10 at the line.
Towson’s 30 free throws were the most against JMU in over two seasons and the 96.8 percent was the best against the Dukes with at least 30 attempts since JMU became a Division I program in 1976. The line shooting allowed the Tigers to overcome a 1-for-12 showing from the arc and a total of just two assists, the fewest against JMU since two by Radford on Jan. 4, 1988.
JMU led from the 15:16 mark of the first half all the way to the 10:01 mark of the season half with the Dukes building leads as large as 10 in both halves. Madison’s lead stood at 42-32 at the 17-minute mark after a putback slam by Nation and a baseline jumper by Nation against the Towson zone. However, the Tigers followed that with a 17-6 charge to pull in front on a layup by John Davis.
Semenov’s sixth 3-pointer of the night put JMU back ahead 51-49. The lead stood at 54-51 on a three-point play after an emphatic dunk by Cooke, but it proved to be the final lead of the night for the Dukes.
A layup by Guthrie and a three-point play by Benimon pushed the Tigers back in front with 7:49 remaining. With the score later tied at 60-60, another three-point play from Towson made it 63-60 with three minutes to go. A layup by sophomore guard Ron Curry (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) cut it to 63-62 but Timajh Parker-Rivera extended it back to 65-62 at 2:09 remaining.
The score held all the way to the 12.2 second mark with Cooke missing a pair of potential tying 3-pointers. Curry connected on one of his two free throw tries with 12.2 seconds left but Four McGlynn hit two for Towson for its largest lead of the game at 67-63 with 11.2 to go.
Curry drew a foul on a made jumper in the lane to cut it to 67-65 with 6.3 seconds showing. He missed the free throw but Nation was able to pull in the offensive rebound and drew a foul. He missed the first attempt and then banked in the second attempt while trying to miss for the offensive rebound opportunity. McGlynn hit two more free throws and Curry’s 40-footer at the buzzer was on line but came up short for a 69-66 final.
Towson finished 34 percent from the field for the game and held a 42-29 rebounding advantage thanks to 24-11 in the second half. JMU was 40 percent overall from the field, 30 percent from the arc (7-for-23) and 17-for-26 (65 percent) from the stripe.
The teams exchanged leads four times in the early minutes before the Dukes pulled ahead to remain for the half on a jumper by Cooke to make it 8-7 with 15 minutes to go in the half. Semenov scored 14 of JMU’s first 19 points, including four 3-pointers, as the Dukes pulled ahead 19-15. The last three ignited a 12-3 push for the Dukes to grab a 28-18 lead at the 4:12 mark with Towson having just four field goals. Towson turned the tide to score 10 of the final 13 points of the half to cut the JMU lead to 31-28 at the half.
JMU shot 33 percent for the half compared to 30 percent for Towson, which sat at 15 percent (2-for-13) with nine minutes to go in the half. The Dukes had seven assists in the half while the Tigers had none. Towson kept it close with free throw shooting, going 13-for-14 at the line in the period.
Semenov led all scorers in the half with 14, including 4-for-7 from the arc, and Cooke added nine for the Dukes. Benimon and Guthrie each had 12 for Towson.
JMU closes the league slate on Saturday in the CAA’s final game of the regular season with a 7 p.m. contest at Hofstra.
NOTES: Semenov raised his record for career games at JMU to 130… he climbed to seventh with 165 career 3-pointers, fifth with 101 career blocks and 10th with 3,268 career minutes… Cooke’s eight free throws pushed him to fifth in school history with 134 for the season while raising his sophomore class record… Cooke’s one steal tied the sophomore class record with 42 for the season… Towson was the second straight JMU opponent to go 1-for-12 from the arc after the previous opponent season low had been four made 3-pointers… JMU used its 12th different starting lineup of the season with redshirt junior Christian Pierce (Ivy, Va./Western Albemarle) earning the start on senior day as he will graduate from JMU in May… it was the third time this season for JMU to lose a game it once led by double figures (Sam Houston State Dec. 6, Delaware Jan. 11).