JMU women’s basketball increased its home-game winning streak to 25 in a 58-51 win over UNCW on Sunday. The Dukes were in a tough battle throughout the afternoon in one of the most physical games the players have been in all season.
Junior guard Kamiah Smalls led the Dukes with 24 points on 7-of-16 shooting, including a clutch layup with 1:34 remaining to secure a late lead for her team that wouldn’t be squandered in what would be JMU’s eighth-straight victory.
“I consider myself as a leader in all categories,” Smalls said. “Whether it’s swag, keeping your teammates up [or] being positive, I want to make sure I’m leading my team.”
Senior guard Logan Reynolds had eight points and three steals, including an important steal that led to two free throws and a 49-48 lead with 2:07 remaining. Head coach Sean O’Regan felt as if that play was the swing JMU needed to finish out the win.
“I thought that was one of the biggest momentum shifts of the game,” O’Regan said. “If anybody had a camera on me, I was trying to call timeout, but no one was looking at me … I thought [Reynolds] was extremely tough, a huge reason we won the game.”
The game had a total of 34 personal fouls called on both teams. As the game got physical, the crowd started to rally behind its home team. O’Regan attributed the physical play to two of the top teams in the conference going at it.
“I said to the staff, ‘This is really how it should be,’” O’Regan said. “You’re playing a third-place team at home in the conference, it should be a one- to two-possession game in the fourth quarter ... It was physical, I give [UNCW] a lot of credit. They’re tough, they’re playing without their best player and they came for us.”
With one of the longest-active home winning streaks in the NCAA, JMU used the Convocation Center advantage to fuel a late comeback. The Dukes trailed by as much as nine in the first half, but outscored the Seahawks by nine in the fourth quarter to pull out a gutsy win.
“We take pride in our home, and we want to protect it,” Reynolds said. “We want to give [the fanbase] a show and allow them to feel what it’s like to have a winning streak. We want to do it for our teammates, fans, family and that’s what it means to us to protect it.”
O’Regan also puts into perspective the active streak and what it means for the program going forward. He loves the passion and attention that the community of Harrisonburg gives every time they play at home.
“I haven’t been to every arena in the country, but I think this is as good as any place in the country,” O’Regan said. “It feels full with 2,500, and I’m glad that people are coming out on a Sunday. The band is rocking, I think it’s awesome. We had kids here today watching, and they’re in amazement when they leave it.”
With the win, JMU moved to 20-4 (12-1 CAA) on the season. This week, the Dukes will be on the road against Elon and in-state rival William & Mary.
Contact Brandon Ellis email@example.com For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.