JMU women’s basketball earns berth in CAA title game
With key free throws and solid defense down the stretch, top-seeded James Madison women’s basketball secured a thrilling 63-60 win over fourth-seeded Elon in the Colonial Athletic Association semifinal round to earn a trip to Sunday’s championship game.
The Dukes (28-3) will face third-seeded Hofstra at 2 p.m. Sunday for the CAA Championship title and the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. This is JMU’s 16th trip to the CAA title game and seventh under Head CoachKenny Brooks. The Dukes have never faced the Pride at the conference tournament.
Junior point guard Angela Mickens drilled a pair of free throws with just over eight minutes to play to put the Dukes ahead for good before junior guard Precious Hall scored 14 of the Dukes’ final 16 points to close out the game. She added a key steal with five seconds on the clock after redshirt-senior center Lauren Okafor was unable to sink a pair from the line that would have given JMU a two-possession advantage (60-63).
Hall was immediately fouled following the theft but was unable to convert either attempt, leaving the game at a one-possession margin. Redshirt-junior guard Jazmon Gwathmey, however, battled for the offensive board that allowed the Dukes to run out the clock and take home the victory.
Hall finished with a game-high 19 points, including a 6-for-8 mark at the free throw line. Okafor chipped in 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for her 13th double-double of the season. Mickens scored 10 points for her 12th double-digit scoring performance of the year and added a game-high seven assists.
Mickens now has 233 assists this season and 425 career dishes, moving into seventh on the JMU all-time career chart.
As a team, JMU finished the game shooting 36.7 percent from the floor (22-60) with a 23.1 percent clip from range (3-13) and 69.6 percent from the line (16-23), with 20 of the Dukes’ 23 trips to the charity stripe coming in the second half. Elon finished at 33.3 percent from the field (21-63), including 20.0 percent from beyond the arc (2-10), and 84.2 percent from the line (16-19).
The Phoenix won the battle in the paint, outscoring the Dukes 32-22, but JMU edged Elon 17-9 in second-chance points despite trailing in offensive rebounds 15-14.
Okafor swatted away five shot attempts in the contest, giving her 52 blocked shots for the season to move into a tie for fifth-most in a single season. She is tied with Nikki Newman’s mark from 2011-12.
The first JMU lead came halfway through the first half off freshman guard Hailee Barron’s first 3-pointer of the CAA Tournament, which capped a 9-2 run and put Madison up by two (18-16). The Dukes and Phoenix traded three point plays, including an NBA-range three from Barron, but Elon came out on top by one (22-21) at the third media timeout (7:54).
Elon continued its run to a 13-5 mark, taking a six-point advantage (29-23) over the Dukes with 5:47 to play before halftime. A fade-away jumper by Gwathmey ended the run and stopped a 3:06 scoring drought for the Dukes.
Both teams came out of halftime playing physical basketball, with neither team posting a field goal until the 16:10 mark (Elon). JMU outscored Elon 5-2 over the opening 6:12, but the Dukes did not score a basket from the floor until the 15:41mark, a layup by senior forward Toia Giggetts.
Giggetts scored another jumper to tie the game at 39-39 before both teams went without a point for over a minute. With13:46 to play and the ball in Elon’s possession, the Dukes press forced the Phoenix to turn the ball back over in JMU territory.
JMU took its first lead of the half on the ensuing possession as junior forward Destiny Jones faked her defender and drove down the baseline. Mickens followed by taking a charge to put the ball back in Madison’s hands and floated a shot in from the top of the key, pushing JMU to a four-point advantage (43-39) with 13:16 remaining to cap an 8-0 run.
Elon battled back, holding JMU scoreless for 3:37 to tie the game at 43-43. Both teams traded points in the paint before Angela Mickens broke the tie for good with a pair of free throws.
Tickets are available for the CAA Championship Tournament semifinals by clicking here. Full tournament coverage from the CAA is available at CAASports.com/WBBChampionship.
Follow JMU women’s basketball on Twitter @JMUWBasketball for in-game updates, recaps and behind-the-scenes pictures from the 2015 CAA Championship Tournament.