After leading Sacred Heart by as many as 21 points in the first half, the James Madison men’s basketball team held off a furious charge from the Pioneers to earn a 79-72 victory in the Buckeye Classic on Wednesdayafternoon at the JMU Convocation Center.
Sophomore forward Paulius Satkus (Raudondvaris, Lithuania/Barking Abbey (England)) led the way for the Dukes (4-1), pouring in a career-high 21 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting from the field. Satkus also made 10 of his 11 free throws and hit his only three-point attempt of the afternoon to go with a career-high eight rebounds.
Three other Dukes scored in double figures, giving JMU four double-digit scorers for the fourth consecutive contest. The Dukes also shot at least 50 percent for the third straight game, making 23-of-46 shots. It is also the first time JMU has won at least four in a row since the 2012-13 season, when they won five straight from March 2-20.
Sophomore guard Jackson Kent (High Point, N.C./High Point Christian) racked up 15 points, giving him five straight double-digit efforts to start the season, while sophomore forward Tom Vodanovich (Wellington, New Zealand/St. Patricks College) tallied 12 and junior guard Ron Curry (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) added 11 to go with a season-high seven assists.
The Pioneers (1-3) were paced by Cane Broome, who scored a team-best 15 points while tying Satkus for game-high rebounding honors, with eight. Three other SHU players had double-figure games in De’Von Barnett (14), Phil Gaetano (13) and Steve Glowiak (11).
Aside from its 50 percent shooting clip, JMU also had a much more effective day from the free-throw line, knocking down 82 percent (27-33) of its tries. SHU was limited to 40 percent shooting (25-63) and only 57 percent (13-23) from the stripe. The Dukes led the rebounding war 38-33 but the Pioneers had a 12-6 advantage on the offensive glass. The visitors also outscored Madison 19-11 off turnovers as the Dukes turned the ball over 18 times, 13 of which occurred in the second half.
The Dukes stormed out of the gates, hitting five of their first six shots inside the opening four minutes to snag an early 12-2 lead. The Dukes had stretched the advantage to 17 at 27-10 but the Pioneers got it back to 12 with five straight points. JMU came back with nine in a row, with five coming from Satkus and four more from Kent, to give the Dukes their largest lead of the half at 36-15 with 4:41 left. SHU trimmed the deficit heading to the half and Madison took a 41-27 lead into the locker room.
The Dukes maintained a comfortable double-digit lead well into the second half but, with the Pioneers trailing 57-44, a pair of Evan Kelley free throws began a run as they scored eight in a row to put the score at 57-52 with 8:14 to play. JMU came back with a run as Satkus, who scored 14 of his 21 in the second half, had an old-fashioned 3-point play with 7:16 left to spark a 9-1 surge over the next 99 seconds that gave the hosts a 66-53 lead.
Sacred Heart wasn’t finished, however, and pulled to within five at 70-65 with 1:38 left after scoring 10 of 11 points in less than two minutes. JMU, which missed 13 free throws two nights ago, would come up big in the closing minutes of this one, making nine of its final 10 attempts in the last minute.
The Dukes will be back in action on Friday, Nov. 28, when they travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on No. 16 Ohio State in the third of four games in the Buckeye Classic. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.