James Madison guard Matt Lewis (1) struggles against Charleston opponent as he tries to shoot the ball.

After weeks of postponements delayed JMU men’s basketball’s conference opener, the Dukes finally faced Towson to begin their CAA slate. Behind senior guard Matt Lewis’ 30 points and eight rebounds, JMU took down the Tigers, 81-72. 

It was the first CAA win for Dukes’ head coach Mark Byington, who along with his team had been waiting for a conference game following a slew of postponements. So far in 2021, JMU has seen games against Towson, Elon and UNCW rescheduled following positive COVID-19 tests. 

“I was really proud of the guys,” Byington said. “They showed growth. That’s the main word we keep using a lot.”

However, the Dukes took the interruptions in stride and earned the nine-point victory over Towson, which hadn’t played a game since Dec. 26. TU was also without its highest scorer in redshirt senior guard Zane Martin, who leads the team with 14.2 points per game. 

The game’s first 15 minutes saw the two teams trade punches, but a 10-0 run from the Dukes made it 38-27. At the end of the first half, JMU held a 44-32 lead.

The Dukes’ lead hovered around the 10-point mark for the remainder of the game. Adding to Lewis’ highlight night was junior guard Vado Morse’s 18 points while going a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line, and freshman forward Justin Amadi’s double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. 

“This is a talented group,” Lewis said. “Credit to our coaching staff for finding these guys, especially through COVID[-19]. We got really good pieces in this team.”

Junior guard Jalen Hodge was the Dukes’ fourth double-digit scorer with 10, the second time the Louisiana Monroe transfer reached the 10-point mark this season. 

The Tigers shot 26% from 3 and committed 19 turnovers. However, JMU scored 19 points off turnovers and via second-chance opportunities, despite Towson out-rebounding the Dukes 41-32. 

Towson drops to 1-5 (0-1 CAA) and faces UNCW on Monday. The Dukes improve to 6-4 (1-0 CAA) and will head north to face Northeastern in a double-header. 

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