President’s Race: George Washington nips JMU, 54-53

Guard Patricio Garino accounted for George Washington’s final five points, including a pair of clinching free throws following a key steal with six seconds left, to stave off James Madison 54-53 in a non-conference men’s basketball game on Wednesday night at the JMU Convocation Center.

GW evened its record at 3-3 and improved to 7-2 in the all-time series while JMU dropped to 1-5 for the season with its third straight defeat.

It was a tightly-contested second half featuring 10 lead changes and five tie scores as neither team could build an advantage larger than four points.  GW led 49-48 when Garino hit a key open three-point field goal from the right baseline with 2:09 on the clock to put the Colonials up by four.

Freshman guard Andre Nation (Plant City, Fla./Faith Baptist Christian) hit a layup for JMU to cut the margin in half.  Freshman guard Charles Cooke (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic) stole the ball back for the Dukes 18 seconds later but senior Alioune Diouf (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern) couldn’t convert a good look at a three from the right wing while trying to give Madison the lead.

JMU’s defense came through with a stop on the next GW possession.  However, the Colonials were able to run the clock all the way down to 15 seconds thanks to three of their 16 offensive rebounds on the night.

Diouf tried to put up a contested hook shot in the paint in transition but had his shot swatted out of bounds with 7.2 seconds left.  On the ensuing inbounds play in front of the JMU bench, senior guard Devon Moore (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) had his entry pass stolen by Garino, who sank a pair of free throws to clinch the road win for GW.  Nation banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer to account for the 54-53 final.

Nation filled up the box score with 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting for JMU to go along with five steals, four blocks, four rebounds and three assists in 35 minutes.  Moore accumulated five assists to climb from fifth to a tie for third in school history with 354 career assists, matching Ben Gordon (1986-88).  Diouf added eight points and six boards.

GW put three players in double figures, led by forward Kevin Larsen’s near double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds, including six on the offensive glass.  Guard Joe McDonald also had 12 points with three steals while guard Lasan Kromah added 10 points, five assists and four rebounds.  Garino contributed nine points, five assists and four steals.

The teams were similar in terms of shooting percentages with GW going 21-for-55 from the floor while JMU was 21-for-52 with the Dukes converting one more three-pointer (4-for-9) on one less attempt.  The most noticeable discrepancy was a 40-28 rebounding advantage for the Colonials, though GW had just four second-chance points on its 16 offense rebounds.

Victims of slow starts all season, JMU grabbed a quick lead as GW turned it over on its first four possessions.  The Dukes built an early 9-4 advantage and grew that margin to a high of eight at 18-10.  Madison still led 22-14 when the Colonials switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense and forced four turnovers while ripping off a 10-0 run in the closing minutes of the half.

JMU freshman guard Ron Curry (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) sank a 15-footer at the buzzer to make it a 24-24 tie at the break, marking the first time this season JMU has not trailed at the intermission.  In fact, the Dukes led for 17:38 of the first half after leading for a total of just 11:49 in five games this season.  JMU added five minutes and 27 seconds of time holding the lead in the second half.

Nation paced the JMU offense with seven points, four steals and two assists in the first half while Diouf added six points, four boards and two steals.  Kromah led GW with eight points in the opening period.

JMU continues its five-game home stretch with a 4 p.m. contest on Saturday hosting Winthrop.

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