With the exception of Saturday’s heartbreaking loss to Old Dominion, the Tribe has emerged relatively unscathed from the majority of its countless close games this season. Prior to Wednesday’s matchup against James Madison (10-11, 3-7 CAA), the College had played nine games in which the outcome was determined by the final possession, amassing a 6-3 record over that span. More often than not, the Tribe displayed efficient late game execution, allowing it to steal several close games.
Wednesday night, it seemed the College was poised to sneak away with yet another razor-thin victory. However, in a scene eerily similar to Saturday night, the Tribe inbounded the ball with 3.8 seconds remaining, and senior guard David Schneider’s three-point jumper failed to fall, giving the Dukes a 65-63 victory.
“It did come down to that last play, just like it did in the ODU game. There were a few plays [before that last shot] that just weren’t made,” senior guard Sean McCurdy said. “We just came out a little slow in the first half and unfortunately put ourselves in a little bit of a hole. But you have to give some credit to JMU; they played a great game.”
With losses to Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion last week, the College has dropped three straight conference games and now stands a distant fourth in the CAA standings. The Tribe’s latest loss was a result of inconsistent play and a lackluster first half.
“I thought we played 20 really good minutes of basketball, but not as strong in the first half,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “I think on the road you have to play 40 really great minutes, and we really didn’t do that tonight.”
Over the past three games, the Tribe has been unable to ignite its high-powered offense. The College shot a meager 40 percent from the floor against the Dukes, including 12 of 33 from behind the arc.
Schneider, especially, was uncharacteristically cold from the floor. The team captain managed to score just three points, well below his season average of 17.2. Sophomore forward JohnMark Ludwick was also a nonfactor, managing only 6 points.
“We are in the thick of conference play, and a lot of these teams know our offense, as opposed to a lot of the teams we played in our nonconference schedule,” McCurdy said. “They are going to be defending us in different ways and giving us a lot of different looks.”
Although the Tribe trailed by eight points at halftime, clutch shooting by sophomore forward Quinn McDowell allowed the College to stay close. McDowell, who nailed four consecutive three-pointers in the second half, led all scorers with 23 points.
Senior forward Danny Sumner posted 12 points in support, including the 1,000th point of his career on a first-half trey.
Saturday, the College will try to regain its lost rhythm when Drexel (12-10, 7-3 CAA) visits Kaplan Arena. The Dragons knocked off CAA front-runner Northeastern Wednesday, and will look to avenge a 73-48 loss to the Tribe earlier in the season.
“[The Drexel game] is extremely important, a game that hopefully we can bounce back in, and get back on track again,” McDowell said. “We just need a game where we can put everything together. We do some things well at times, but another area of our game will be lacking, so hopefully we can put it all together on Saturday.”