Devon Merritt

Junior forward Devon Merritt put up 16 points and five rebounds against Towson.

The JMU women’s basketball team survived at home on Sunday against Towson, winning in overtime 71-59. Junior guard Kamiah Smalls led the Dukes with 18 points, but junior forward Devon Merritt provided the biggest spark.

Merritt had 16 points in crucial minutes for the Dukes as they had to deal with foul trouble from redshirt junior center Kayla Cooper Williams. Senior guard/forward Aneah Young also had a couple of crucial defensive plays down the stretch, including a drawn charge with 2.3 seconds left in regulation.

JMU head coach Sean O’Regan made sure to give credit to Young for her effort on the defensive end of the ball. He was proud to see Young’s hard work pay off in the results column.

“Aneah has worked really hard at that and always been there for us in that respect,” O’Regan said. “That was a huge play for her … I’m glad she gave us an opportunity to run a play, she was huge.”

Smalls was also excited for Young in that moment. Smalls pointed out that was one of the plays that carried the momentum going forward for the Dukes into the overtime period.

“It was about that momentum,” Smalls said. “That’s Aneah’s thing, when that happens for us in tight situations like that, we’re hyped. It just brings energy and momentum, especially in a tight game like that against a really good Towson team. I give Aneah 100 percent credit for that because those are hard.”

The role Merritt had to take on was because of foul trouble for Cooper Williams. O’Regan talked about fouling being one of the issues for this team because of the lack of depth at the five position.

“We were in trouble,” O’Regan said. “Devon hadn’t been feeling the greatest … so I assumed that Devon was going to be like a 12 [total] minutes, with a minute here a minute there, but when Kayla gets two, it was like, ‘Okay, what are we going to do for the rest of this half?’So, I said, ‘We’re going to play zone a little bit.’”

Merritt hit the game-tying layup toward the end of regulation, and kept that fourth quarter momentum going into overtime. Merritt scored 14 of her 16 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to go along with Smalls’ nine points in those periods.

“Devon, she stepped up in big ways tonight,” Smalls said. “Kayla was in very big foul trouble and Devon came in and literally took over the role, she came in under the weather — you wouldn’t have known if we didn’t tell you — she came in with heart and passion, as she did everything she needed to do for us to win.”

Junior guard Lexie Barrier also had a double-double in the game — her first of the season. Barrier explained her mindset when she has to play the four role in games in which it’s a physical battle on both ends of the floor.

“I just got to tell myself that I’m a little bigger than what I am,” Barrier said. “Towson, they got a lot of size on them, so you really got to dig in and play harder.”

JMU moves to 16-4 (8-1 CAA) on the year. The loss drops Towson to 12-8 (6-3 CAA). The Dukes will travel to play Northeastern on Friday and Hofstra on Sunday.

Contact Brandon Ellis at 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.”