The College (6-14, CAA 1-8) fell to JMU (11-10, CAA 7-3) 64-58 on Sunday, Feb. 6 at Kaplan Arena in the annual Golden Game.
“I thought we had a great crowd,” Head Coach Ed Swanson said. “The energy was terrific in Kaplan today so I was excited for our fans to show out.”
Graduate student Riley Casey came out firing on offense in the first quarter. She made two three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to set up the Tribe with a 6-2 lead. Several possessions later she converted on a jumper, tallying the College’s first 8 points of the day.
“Riley’s been a bulldog for us all year,” Swanson said. “She is playing with great poise and great energy. What you saw today is what we see everyday.”
The Dukes fought to keep the contest close, but hurt themselves with several travels on offense and a total of five turnovers in the first quarter.
After a brief slow down, the College regained momentum from another Casey three-pointer with 4:15 remaining in the quarter. Three more consecutive scores helped the Tribe extend their lead to 23-13 after the first. Casey led both teams with 11 points and shot 3-5 from behind the three-point line. She played all 40 minutes and finished the game with 20 points.
The Tribe remained hot from beyond the arc to start the second quarter. Casey and redshirt senior Sydney Wagner each converted from deep to extend the Tribe lead to 16 points. Another two-pointer extended their lead to 18 points, the largest margin of the game.
Strong efforts on the boards from graduate student Kate Sramac, junior Bre Bellamy, and sophomore Kayla Beckwith allowed the Tribe 10 second chance points in the first half. All three players finished the game with six rebounds.
The College’s defense looked strong to start the second quarter. They held the Dukes to just three points in the first five minutes. Halfway through the quarter, the JMU defense started locking down and held the Tribe scoreless for over four minutes.
Wagner broke the drought with a basket from inside the paint to extend the Tribe lead back to 15 points. She played all 40 minutes and scored 16 points.
In the final minutes of the half, JMU slowly chipped away at the College’s lead. With 1:34 remaining in the half, JMU senior Jaylin Carodine stole the ball from Sramac and converted on the fastbreak layup. The score cut the Tribe lead to single digits for the first time since the first quarter. The College scored just two points in the final 7:36 of the first half, and JMU found themselves down just 33-25 at halftime.
The College struck first in the second half with a two-pointer from Bellamy. However, JMU looked strong on offense and converted on back-to-back drives from inside the paint to cut the Tribe lead down to six.
The Tribe started to look sloppy on offense, committing several turnovers that set up the Dukes with good scoring opportunities. JMU began neutralizing Casey and held her scoreless for 10 minutes before she made a foul shot with 6:42 remaining in the third quarter.
“We go into those lulls sometimes because we rely so much on two people to score,” Swanson said. “We have not developed that third consistent scorer yet.”
In addition to poor offensive play in the second and third quarters, the Tribe found themselves in foul trouble. The College fouled 14 times in the second and third quarters combined, versus just six from JMU. The Dukes got to the line 24 times, whereas the Tribe only got 8 looks.
“James Madison seemed to be driving to the hole harder, and we were not,” Swanson said. “The free throws were a huge difference.”
After a layup from Carodine that brought the Tribe lead down to four, Casey drained a three-pointer to increase the lead back to seven.
JMU continued drawing fouls on offense and slowly chipped away at the College’s lead, which stood at just three points halfway through the third quarter.
After a three-pointer from Wagner, JMU junior Kiki Jefferson converted on a layup and three-pointer to cut the Tribe lead to just one point. Jefferson finished the game with 32 points and seven rebounds, including 22 points in the second half.
“She really scored on our lack of discipline at times,” Swanson said.
On the ensuing possession, Carodine stole the ball from Beckwith and dribbled down the court, taking all of the game’s momentum with her. After making the layup and drawing a foul, the Dukes bench and fan section erupted into cheer. JMU retook the lead for the first time since 8:39 in the first quarter. She missed the foul shot, but JMU sophomore Annalicia Goodman secured the rebound and kicked the ball out to Jefferson who drove in for another layup to extend the visiting team’s lead to 45-42.
Freshman Dani McTeer made a layup and drew a foul on the next Tribe possession. She missed the and-one opportunity, keeping the score at 46-44 after three-quarters of play.
Wagner started the fourth quarter with a two-pointer from inside the paint to tie the game. Several minutes later the referees called an offensive foul on the Tribe. After reviewing the play, the officials reversed the call and assigned the penalty to Carodine. Wagner went to the line and converted on both attempts to cut the deficit down to one point.
A JMU turnover from Jefferson gave the Tribe more momentum, and Bellamy drew a foul from Carodine as she drove through the paint. Bellamy drained both foul shots and the Tribe retook a one-point lead.
On their next possession, JMU struggled to find an open shot. With the shot clock standing at just three seconds, head coach Sean O’Regan called a 30-second timeout. Jefferson received the ball off of the inbound pass and fired up a shot but failed to convert.
After a shot-clock violation by the Tribe, Jefferson drained a three-pointer to regain a two-point lead for the Dukes. On the next JMU possession, Sramac came up with a key turnover. She drove down the court and passed to McTeer for a game-tying layup. President Katherine Rowe jumped up out of her chair and started marching down the sideline chanting “DEFENSE” to the student section.
With under a minute to go in the game, JMU held a two-point lead and possession of the ball. JMU sophomore Jamia Hazell, who covered Casey for most of the game, missed a jumper, and the Tribe drove back the other way. The Dukes continued to play lockdown defense and forced Casey to take a tough shot from just outside the paint. She came up short and JMU regained possession with just 14.8 seconds remaining.
The Tribe fouled, hoping that they could regain possession. However, Jefferson remained hot and drained both free throws to extend the JMU lead to four points with 13.7 seconds remaining, silencing the home crowd, including Rowe.
Following a Tribe timeout, Wagner threw up a three-point shot but missed, forcing the College to commit another foul. Jefferson went back to the line and cemented JMU’s 18 point comeback victory with two more free throws.
“This is just a stretch where we need to stay focused longer, and we have got to play harder longer,” Swanson said. “That is what it came down to today.”
The College will travel to Charleston on Friday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. looking to break a five-game losing streak.
“Ball security is going to be critical for us against Charleston,” Swanson said.
Correction: a previous version of this article referred to the team from JMU as the “Duke Dogs,” rather than the Dukes.