It wasn’t perfect, but JMU got the job done. Although the last 10 seconds seemed like an eternity for the Dukes, a late-game defensive stand helped seal a 71-69 win over Drexel and lift them out of last place in the CAA.
A career night from sophomore forward Dwight Wilson highlighted a much-needed win for JMU. After losing six of seven games, the Dukes were searching for a spark as they entered the final stretch of the regular season. Wilson’s 20 points and 18 rebounds, both of which were career-highs, were just what the team needed to break a bad stretch of games.
“We work hard every day and sometimes the ball doesn’t fall our way,” freshman guard Deshon Parker said. “Today it felt good to get a W.”
The first half couldn’t have gone better for JMU. Drexel’s leading scorer senior guard Troy Harper was held to four points, and the Dragons shot 33 percent from the field through the first 20 minutes.
What helped JMU get off to a hot start was the production from its forwards. Wilson had eight points and eight rebounds and sophomore forward Zach Jacobs added four points. Both Wilson and Jacobs were freeing themselves in the paint, allowing the guards to have space and move the ball inside.
Parker thrived off of the space created, scoring 10 points and dishing out three assists in the first stanza of the contest. At the half, the Dukes were up 37-28 and had a lot of confidence heading into the locker room.
“At the point guard spot, you’ve got to get the team going,” Parker said. “Every game I try to do that, but today, shots fell. When shots fall, things are good. It boosted my energy and fed it off to the team.”
Redshirt senior guard Stuckey Mosley entered the game following an off-game against Towson on Saturday in which he scored 11 points in the first five minutes but only had three for the remainder of the game. Against Drexel, he had 15 points, scoring seven in the first half and eight in the second.
“I approached the game the same way in both halves,” Mosley said. “Shots just fell. That’s all that really happened.”
All season long, JMU has struggled to put a complete game together, with its lapses often happening at the start of the second half. It was a different story against the Dragons, as whenever Drexel knocked a shot down, the Dukes had an answer. Sophomore guard Matt Lewis had a pair of steals, one of which ended in an emphatic dunk that sent JMU fans crazy, and Wilson continued to be a force down low.
“[I thought], ‘Just be aggressive. Don’t think, just go,’” Wilson said. “On all facets of the game, I tried to get extra possessions for my teammates on offense and control the paint on defense … I’ve been told all my life that I’m the biggest thing on the court, so I’ve got to play like it.”
Despite trailing by as many as 13 in the second half, Drexel hung around and chipped away at JMU’s lead. The Dragons applied a full-court press that helped cause seven turnovers, allowing them to make things interesting down the stretch.
Drexel had a chance to tie or win the game with an inbound under the basket with .8 seconds left, but it couldn’t get a shot up before the buzzer sounded, signaling a long-awaited home win for JMU.
“[The players] were happy,” head coach Louis Rowe said. “They were jumping around, hitting each other, music going, it’s good to see. This time of the year, what we’re going through can be tedious … I tried to give them time to get it out of their system, but they were excited and they deserve it.”
For the first time under Rowe, JMU has won more than 10 games in a season. At 11-15 (4-9 CAA), the Dukes are now No. 9 in the conference and remain close to the middle of the pack. They’ll turn their attention to Delaware, who comes to the Convocation Center on Saturday.
Contact Noah Ziegler at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.