James Madison 84, William and Mary 79
With 1 minute, 41 seconds remaining Saturday, James Madison’s Denzel Bowles shoved away a pair of William and Mary defenders, and without a second’s hesitation, Bowles leaped and put in the layup, giving the Dukes’ their first lead since the 14:23 mark of the first half.
You can talk about pulling out victory from the jaws of defeat, but after looking ready to give the Tribe (4-11, 0-4 CAA) its first conference win of the season, Bowles and the rest of the Dukes’ frontline physically manhandled the Tribe to preserve a 84-79 James Madison victory.
“There were a couple of key offensive rebounds they got which they got huge baskets off of,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “Their go-ahead basket, if I’m not mistaken, was on a free throw in which Bowles bowled his way through and put it back in.”
The Dukes out-rebounded the College 42 to 22, but for the first part of the game it didn’t matter as the Tribe rarely missed. The Tribe shot 51.9 percent from the floor in the first half, and made six out of 12 three point shots to take a 46-42 halftime lead.
An 8-2 run, capped off by a driving layup by freshman guard Brandon Britt extended the Tribe’s lead to 54-44 with 16:42 remaining in the second quarter. But the Dukes turned on the intensity, scoring seven straight points after a JMU timeout to cut the lead back to three.
“I think going into that second half they clearly made adjustments,” junior forward JohnMark Ludwick said. “We didn’t make nearly as many threes as we did in the first half.”
The Tribe only made one of nine three point attempts in the second half, forcing the College’s inside game to carry the load. Senior center Marcus Kitts scored seven of his 16 total points in the second half, and Britt added seven second-half points as well.
Kitts also led the Tribe with five rebounds while also going 7-of-9 from the field. Still, the senior’s efforts left Shaver wanting more.
“He has got to play harder all the time,” Shaver said. “He has got to give this effort all the time. I think maybe Marcus plays better with a few less minutes. He had 26 minutes tonight, so he had a little more energy on the court. He has to play with that type of energy all the time.”
Kitts, for his part, agrees with his head coach.
“He has been saying that for four years, to play harder,” Kitts said. “I’ve heard that a bunch and it is something I have to work on.”
Six Tribe players finished in double figures, including freshman guard Julian Boatner, who scored ten points in his first start of the season. Britt also scored ten points, while junior forward Quinn McDowell scored 13 and Ludwick added 15 on 4-for-7 shooting from behind the arc.
The effort brought the Tribe one step closer to its first conference win, and a step closer to realizing its potential, according to Kitts.
“I think we are definitely improving at a pretty fast rate,” Kitts said. “This reminds me of my team my freshman year, the one that made the championship game of the CAA tournament. I think this will be a team no one will truly want to play come tournament time.”