In a band-is-back-together type of performance led by a newly reinstated A.J. Davis, the Dukes earned their second straight win for East Tennessee State University, 70-45.
“I thought that was our most complete 40 minutes we’ve played this year. I think there’s been flashes of a good basketball team in the past few days,” coach Matt Brady said.
Wednesday’s win marked a return to form for the team. It is the first time the Dukes (3-5) have won back-to-back games since November/December of last season when they won three in a row against Rider, Penn, and Hofstra. Also the first time they have won back-to-back home games since January 2011 when they took down Georgia State and UNC-Wilmington.
“We want to protect our home. We haven’t been doing so well on the road, but to get two back to back wins and to have a crowd and to try and get more people involved in this community,” redshirt senior Devon Moore said. “I know they are definitely waiting for us to blow up and do something big.”
Moore, who scored six assists and seven points, inched closer to school history. He now needs just three points to become the 26th Duke to score 1,000 career points.
Davis (867) and redshirt senior Andrey Semenov (855) will also likely reach this milestone at some point during the season.
Brady was pleased to see his team have such a good overall performance last night, which he said was emphasized by unselfishness.
“I thought tonight everyone played for the team. On just about every possession not one guy took a shot or made a play thinking about themselves and that is something we’ve talked about. Let’s buy into a team concept and I think they see the power of it tonight and we’ll flip the page and get ready for the next game.”
JMU held opponents to under 50 points just twice last season in victories over The Citadel and William & Mary.
Davis was more than pleased to be able to take to the floor again with his teammates after serving his brief one-game suspension for a violation of team standards.
“Very exciting. Like a kid at a birthday party receiving a lot of gifts,” Davis said.
When asked if he knew why he was suspended he replied, “Yes. It gave me a time to really sit back and think about my actions and to see it was really hurting our team and I needed to change,” Davis said. “Just learn from it and keep going on. It makes you think this is an opportunity and not everyone is granted with this opportunity.”
He finished with a season high 17 points on 6-15 shooting, which also led the Dukes in scoring against the Buccaneers. Davis’ performance also included a second half dunk worthy of the highlight reels.
“He took the rim down,” Moore added.
Brady, who has been very critical of the preseason second team all-conference guard over the past few weeks, spoke highly of Davis after the game.
“He made some terrific plays in the open court,” Brady said. “He made some threes. I though his defense is really what I was concerned about, but I thought his energy on the defensive end was good. His attitude was just as good if not better. As long as he brings effort and a good attitude, I’m going to give him some latitude because he’s a guy that can score,” Brady said.
Brady also got another well-rounded performance from Andre Nation. The freshman finished with 11 points, five rebounds, two assists, three blocks and five steals. Nation now has 22 steals on the season (2.75/game), which leads the Colonial Athletic Association.
The team got going early and really never looked back. JMU took a 16 point lead into the locker room and then opened the second half on an 18-3 run, which helped them reach a season-high 30 point lead at one point.
“This is a great statement win,” Moore said. “Just to get our confidence to move forward.”
The last lopsided win for the Dukes came way back on January 5, 2011 against Towson where they won, 99-68.
Wednesday’s win looked a lot different than the last time the two teams met back in January in Johnson City, TN where the Buccaneers got out to a 20-5 lead and made quick work of the injured Dukes roster.
“Just to get a lead and to return the favor because last year they had a lead on us and blew us out of the gym early,” Moore said. “Just to know all the hard work we’ve been doing is finally starting to pay off.”
ETSU came into Wednesday’s game with one of the top freshman players in the country, Lester Wilson. Wilson leads all freshmen in the nation averaging 19.4 points/game.
The Dukes held Wilson to just 5 points through the first thirty minutes of the game. Wilson came on late and finished with 21, but the Dukes defense headed by a season high 15 steals helped keep the Bucs quiet on the floor. With 15 steals, the Dukes increased their CAA leading steal total to 79 (9.88/game).
With Davis back, Semenov back, Curry due back, a solid defense and an improving offense, everything seems to be clicking at just the right time for Brady and the Dukes.
“I don’t know if we have a first team all-league guy on our team, but we have some good players that really tonight felt how much fun it can be to play with each other,” Brady said. “I’m excited for our kids to see what we’ve been talking about.”
Next up for the Dukes is a potent Richmond team that will travel to Harrisonburg Saturday for a 7 p.m. tip. The Spiders (7-2) already have wins over William & Mary and Wake Forest. The two haven’t played each other since the 2000-2001 season, Richmond winning the last matchup 66-63 at JMU.
“I think it’s just a good game, whether we win or lose the game,” Brady said.
Freshman Ron Curry will be “almost definite or most probable for Saturday,” Brady said. He has missed the past two games due to a concussion he got last Thursday in practice after being kneed in the forehead.