Despite losing its leading scorer in the early portion of Saturday’s game, JMU women’s basketball willed its way to a hard-earned, resilient win over Delaware to close out its regular season, 56-51.
Late in the first quarter, junior guard Kamiah Smalls went up for a rebound and came down with an injury to her right hand. She finished the quarter, but sat the rest of the way. With Smalls on the bench, JMU went ice cold from the floor. The Dukes shot 1-for-18 from the field in the second quarter, scoring just three points in the period.
“[Delaware] is good defensively,” JMU head coach Sean O’Regan said. “That zone is hard to figure out, that’s not an easy thing ... it’s a really good matchup zone that reminds me of Drexel. … It was a combination of really good defense for them [and] our most aggressive scorer who creates shots as much as shoots shots not being out there.”
Fortunately for JMU’s offense, its defense held Delaware to just 12 points in the second quarter and went into the half down by just two. Junior guard Lexie Barrier led the Dukes with eight points in the opening half, with redshirt junior center Kayla Cooper Williams adding in four points, six rebounds and two blocks.
Second-half efforts from both redshirt junior guard Jackie Benitez and freshman guard Madison Green combined for 25 points in the closing 20 minutes to seal the narrow victory. Green scored six straight points in the third quarter to keep the Dukes in striking distance.
“I thought [Green] came in and did a phenomenal job,” Delaware head coach Natasha Adair said. “She was the difference maker and the X-factor for them whether it was penetration or knocking down a big three, she was the spark they needed at the right time.”
Green’s 11 points were the third-highest outing for the freshman this season. After putting up 17 and 13 earlier in the season against Maryland and Delaware State, respectively, the Winchester, Virginia, native showed yet again she can provide a reliable spark off the bench.
“I was just really into the moment,” Green said. “I wanted to do it for our seniors [guards] Logan [Reynolds] and Aneah [Young], and I saw that we were in a little bit of a drought, so, I wanted to come out there and give it everything I had.”
Once Green got going, the rest of the Dukes got their flow back into the offense and found some rhythm to close out the game. The young guard’s energy willed a new life into the rest of the team.
“I always preached her take the moment and just be her and don’t be anything else,” Reynolds said. “She knows what she’s capable of and she did it tonight and I was so hype. She looked at me and said ‘We’re not losing this game.’ And I said ‘Yep.’ She did so well tonight and she can do that any night she wants.”
JMU, who closed out the season at 25-4 (17-1), will have nearly a week of rest heading into the CAA Tournament. The Dukes will tip off at noon on Thursday against the winner of Elon and Hofstra, who play Wednesday.
Contact Brandon Ellis firstname.lastname@example.org For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.