Madison Green

JMU freshman guard Madison Green put out the third-highest point total of her career once leading scorer Kamiah Smalls was injured.

JMU women’s basketball advanced to the semifinals of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament with a 54-44 win over the Georgetown Hoyas. The Dukes held a slim 39-35 lead after the third quarter, but JMU outscored the Hoyas 15-9 in the fourth to secure the win.

“That comes with the patience of the game,” junior guard Kamiah Smalls said about the fourth quarter offensive performance. “They’ll make some runs, you’ll make some runs and our run just so happened to come at the beginning of the fourth, which, honestly, I think was great timing. I think it stunned [Georgetown] a little bit, it had them a little frozen with what to do at that time.”

Smalls, redshirt junior guard Jackie Benitez and redshirt junior center Kayla Cooper Williams all scored in double figures for the Dukes. Benitez led the team with 14 points, Smalls had 13 and Cooper Williams tallied 12. Smalls added eight rebounds to the stat sheet, while Cooper Williams had nine.

JMU held Georgetown to shoot 18-of-66 from the field, which included holding senior guard Dionna White to 11 points, shooting 5-of-17 from the field. JMU head coach Sean O’Regan appreciated the gritty performance from his team, especially on the defensive side of the court.

“Really proud of our defensive effort today,” O’Regan said. “I think it’s really hard to hold that team down, I thought we did a really good job of doing it. Ugly game, but one thing I was proud of was we’ve learned how to win in a lot of different ways this year … I think holding Dionna White ... to 5-for-17 … Even [redshirt senior guard] Dorothy [Adomako] 16 points on 21 shots, I think that’s a good focused defensive effort.”

The Hoyas closed the gap several times to keep the game competitive. However, Benitez or Smalls would hit a shot to halt their momentum — which has been a theme all tournament long for the Dukes. A fadeaway jumper from Smalls with 7:47 left in the second quarter sparked a 13-5 run to end the second quarter following the tie at 12. Benitez started the third quarter by scoring the first five points. She talked about the consistent play she and Smalls have had so far in the WNIT.

“It’s just playing with confidence,” Benitez said. “We’re both pretty confident in our shots or going to the basket. So, if we’re feeling confident, we’re going to shoot.”

The Dukes managed to pull out the win even after losing the rebounding battle 46 to 41 due to the Hoyas winning the offensive boards 15 to six. That’s been a point of concern for O’Regan over the duration of this tournament.

“I’m kind of curious,” O’Regan said. “I believe we’ve played four games in the WNIT and we’ve been outrebounded in three of them. I don’t know if that is [junior guard] Lexie Barrier, because we’re forced to play smaller lineups … That’s something I want to hang my hat on, is being able to rebound, but when we do, the tempo is so much better. When we can clean the rebound and run, we’re a much better offensive team.”  

JMU, now 29-5 on the season, will host the Northwestern Wildcats in the WNIT semifinals. Tip-off is Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Contact Brandon Ellis ellis3bm@dukes.jmu.edu. For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.

Sports has been a passion for me all my life. I've always wanted to become a sports journalist ever since I heard the legendary Stuart Scott exclaim his great catchphrases like “Booyah!” or “Cooler than the other side of the pillow.”