Women's basketball

JMU seniors prepare for their last home game of the season.

JMU clobbered the University of Delaware Sunday afternoon in the Colonial Athletic Association women’s basketball title game, 70-45.

The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md. was nearly covered in purple, as those who traveled to see their beloved alma mater play were not disappointed.

Three quick lead changes were all it took for the Dukes to grab the Blue Hens by the neck and clinch their seventh NCAA tournament bid early on in the first half, and their first since 2011.

“We won’t win it in the first ten minutes, like Coach says,” sophomore guard and all-conference player Precious Hall said of the Dukes’ early lead. “So we just knew that we got to keep pushing, keep pushing and that’s what got us this win.” 

Tournament Most Outstanding Player, redshirt sophomore guard Jazmon Gwathmey, had the game of her life with a career-high 20 points. She racked up a double-double on top of that with another career-high of 14 rebounds.

“I just put in the mindset to play these last three games my hardest,” Gwathmey said. “Not second guess myself.”

Senior Kirby Burkholder had a tournament record 22 rebounds this weekend, seven of which occurred in Sunday’s game. Burkholder also put up 11 points against the Blue Hens.

“Our team this year, I feel like this is the best team we’ve had,” Burkholder said. 

Hall was on fire in the first half, leading the Dukes with 11 points. She finished with 14.

Junior forward Toia Giggetts tied with Burkholder, also scoring 11 points. Giggetts ranked in at second in rebounds with eight. Overall, the team shot 34.3 percent (23-67) from the field.

Though senior guard Nikki Newman posted only two points and four rebounds, head coach Kenny Brooks says her leadership is key. Hers and Burkholder’s previous experience in the NCAA tournament will help the Dukes in the coming weeks. According to Newman, the entire weekend was a “we effort.”

“I think we can make a lot of noise in the NCAA tournament,” she said. “And that’s something that this team deserves.”

When the clock hit zero and the Dukes officially clinched the title, no chants were louder than those for Brooks as he cut down the net after the game. Brooks is confident that his team will fare well in the tournament, equating this season to the likes of the University of Connecticut. Though they are relaxed, he is sure they have their game under control.

“Somebody asked me if this was my favorite team,” Brooks said. “That’s like asking me what my favorite water is. But this team played the best together.”

The Dukes now head into the NCAA tournament at 28-5 overall. The selection show will air Monday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.