So far this season, JMU men’s basketball’s play on the court looks to be heading in the right direction. Points off of defense, star performances, sparks from freshmen and production on both sides of the court have led the Dukes to an impressive start that is not all said in the win-loss category. The Dukes have veteran leadership and young talent that are on verge of doing something special.
Limestone University: Win, 89-55
The Dukes blew out Limestone in their season opener and recorded their first win ever at the Atlantic Union Bank Center. They shot 48.6% from the field while holding Limestone to 38.5%.
The Dukes dominated on defense by scoring 35 points off turnovers and stealing the ball 21 times. Both teams weren't perfect, but JMU was in control for a majority of the game.
A few JMU freshmen made names for themselves in their college debuts. Freshman forward Terrence Edwards got a spot in the starting lineup and didn’t disappoint. Edwards scored 11 points, recorded two assists and picked up six boards.
Freshman forward Justin Amadi came off the bench and provided a huge spark for the Dukes by going perfect (8-for-8) from field goal range, scoring 16 points and grabbing four boards. Freshman guard Terell Strickland was the heart of JMU's defense, as he stole the ball 10 times — a new JMU and CAA single-game steal record – and got a block in there too. He also added eight assists to his resume that game. The freshman class as a whole scored 23 out of the 89 points scored by the Dukes.
JMU junior guard Vado Morse, coming in as a transfer from Mount St. Mary’s, didn’t disappoint in his Dukes debut. He scored 13 points, was 75% from 3-point land and recorded four assists. It looks like he’ll bring high offensive production and will be a nice addition to the team.
JMU senior guard Matt Lewis had a typical double-digit scoring game with 13 but was only 41.6% from the field and had a tough night from three, as he only scored 25% of those shots. JMU senior forward Zach Jacobs scored 10 points and got a fair share of rebounds with six.
Norfolk State: Loss, 83-73
The Dukes' only loss of the season so far came to Norfolk State. Their shooting performance didn’t help them, as they were 36.2% from field goal range and 32.1% from three. The Dukes also couldn’t keep hold of the ball, as evident in the team’s 12 turnovers.
Two special performances came from Lewis and Morse. Lewis went off for 27 points, four assists and four rebounds. He scored four shots from 3-point land and scored 13-of-14 shots at the charity stripe. Morse scored 16 points, recorded four assists and got two off the glass. He also put up two from 3-point range.
The Dukes’ defense wasn't enough to stop Norfolk St., as they had four double-digit scorers and two who were one point shy from the mark. JMU allowed its opponent to shoot 49% from the field and 45.5% from three.
JMU’s bench wasn’t as explosive as its first game. The Spartans had 26 points off their bench versus 16 from the Dukes. Norfolk St. scored 16 points off turnovers versus the Dukes only scoring 12 points off turnovers.
The Dukes were up at halftime 38-35 but lost their way in the second half by giving up 48 points. The Dukes weren’t at their best, but this team has a set of new faces and coaching staff who are still developing into the team head coach Mark Byington wants to see.
Radford: Win, 67-59
The Dukes’ defense showed up ready to play, as they only allowed their opponent to shoot 40% from the field and 22% from three. This go-around, Radford struggled with its free throw shooting, scoring only 57.7% of those shots.
The loss had no effect on Morse’s play, as he went off for 26 points and made five from 3-point land. Lewis got himself a double-double, scoring 18 points and picking up 10 off the board. Sophomore forward Julien Wooden showed out by scoring 13 points and getting seven off the glass.
The Dukes scored 25 points off turnovers. Radford went up 2-0 to start the first half, but after a three from Lewis, the Dukes never gave up the lead for the rest of the game.
ECU: Loss, 73-64
The Dukes had a tough afternoon shooting as they shot 39.6% from the field and 25% from 3. They also committed a season-high 19 turnovers.
Lewis’ shooting performance wasn’t perfect as the Woodbridge, Virginia, native went 6-of-14, but he still scored 19 points. He also dialed up three assists and grabbed six rebounds. Strickland had an all-around impressive game, scoring seven points and recording two assists, two boards and two steals.
The Pirates’ bench was a problem for the Dukes, as they scored 35 of the team’s points. Despite the Dukes 19 turnovers, they only allowed 17 points of them, but the Pirates still managed to have four players reach double-digit scoring.
Alice Lloyd College (KY.): Win, 98-55
The Dukes dominated on both sides of the court, leading them to a 43-point blowout. They scored a season-high 98 points and recorded 23 assists — the most assists in a game since their win against Marshall University in 2015.
JMU’s defense allowed Alice Lloyd to shoot 33.8% from the field and 19.2% from three. The Dukes got Alice Lloyd to commit 18 turnovers, scoring 24 points off them.
For the first time this season every JMU player scored and eight players scored six or more points. It stepped up offensively compared to their previous game, as it scored 54.5% from the field and 41.9% from 3. The bench also went off for 43 points.
Lewis’ scoring and Strickland’s all-around play showed off once again. Lewis scored 29 points and five from 3-point land. Strickland scored seven points and recorded six assists and seven boards.
JMU junior guard Jalen Hodge and sophomore forward Michael Christmas gave a spark for the Dukes. Hodge scored six points and recorded four assists and five rebounds. Christmas scored 12 points, picked up four boards and made two from three-point range.
VCU: Loss, 82-81
The Dukes lost a tight ballgame in the Commonwealth in a game that seemed out of hand with the Dukes down 15 at half. Once again, the Dukes’ shooting hurt them down the stretch, going only 38.5% from the field in the first half and 30.8% from three during the whole game.
The Dukes were sloppy with the ball, committing 18 turnovers and allowing 23 points off them. JMU also allowed eight VCU players to score six or more points.
The Dukes had a tough time stopping VCU junior forward Vince Williams and sophomore guard Nah’Shon Hyland, who both had 15 points, and junior guard KeShawn Curry who had 13 points. The Dukes also allowed freshman guard Adrian Baldwin to record 10 assists.
The Dukes had six players score seven or more points. Lewis dominated on all sides of the court with 21 points, 7 seven assists and 12 rebounds. Hodge had a career-high 15 points. Christmas gave the Dukes an early Christmas present, scoring a season-high 15 points and scoring three from downtown.
The Dukes did outscore the Rams in the second half 50-36, but their mistakes and inefficiency weren't enough to go home with the win.
The Dukes have shown that when they play good defense, it typically leads to good offense. If it continues to take advantage of getting points off defense and committing fewer turnovers, have players such as Lewis, Morse, Strickland, Hodge and Wooden continue their special performances and the freshman class continue to contribute good production, the Dukes look to have a bright future ahead.
Contact Andrew Oliveros at email@example.com. For more men’s basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.