Story by Chris Graham
That first half of basketball that I saw the other night in Harrisonburg was mighty ugly.
OK, just looking at the scoreboard – which had Siena on top of JMU by a 44-42 count in a game that the Dukes would later win 100-88 – wasn’t in and of itself an indication of that.
But the stat sheet that the sports-information people handed me at halftime was.
It had James Madison committing 18 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, and Siena with 17 turnovers.
That the teams had eight and three miscues, respectively, in the second stanza was only limited consolation to their coaches.
“Hopefully as much as anything it was early-season play – because we certainly can’t win games with 26 turnovers,” JMU coach Dean Keener said after the game.
Keener had made it known early last week that he wasn’t exactly pleased as peaches to be playing an opener on Nov. 9 – “I think Thanksgiving would be a better kind of a timeline,” Keener said afterward.
Siena coach Fran McCaffery was noncommital on the issue of playing early – but he did agree that it seemed to take something out of the game early on.
“That’s all I thought it was – two things, first, it’s the first game, and both teams are running, and both teams are going off the dribble. It’s a tough game to officiate, because everybody’s driving. Is it a push? Is it a bump? Is it a foul? Is it not a foul? And it just got a little sloppy,” McCaffery said.
Keener, for his part, couldn’t understand his team’s sloppiness – if for just one key reason.
“We went to Spain in August, so you’d think we would be a little bit ahead of the curve in terms of maybe our maturity and maybe our understanding of what we want to do offensively. Credit their defense, and credit – they went to some pressure there in the second half and kind of got us thinking a little bit too much, and we turned it over. The change is what really hurt us. They tried to change tonight what they were doing defensively,” Keener said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.