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James Madison guard Kiki Jefferson (30) lines up for a free throw.

JMU women’s basketball took on UNCW at the Convocation Center and beat the Seahawks 76-52. The Dukes currently rank second in the CAA with UNCW sitting in ninth, but that didn’t stop the contest from becoming a fast and physical game.

The game started out in a back-and-forth manner, with UNCW taking a small lead that was quickly shut down by the Dukes. The trend continued through the first quarter of the game before JMU was able to get a 19-13 lead at the end of the quarter.

“The first quarter wasn’t the smoothest we’ve played,” head coach Sean O’Regan said. “For me, I thought we did a good job of making sure to continue to put pressure on them with rebounds, defense and some zone.”

The second quarter brought much more physicality to the game, with both teams playing close and confined defenses. Senior guard Kamiah Smalls, along with redshirt senior guard Jackie Benitez, went on an eight-point run to give the Dukes a 15-point lead going into the half.

“We come out prepared to play every game the same way,” Benitez said. “We bring out our players hard in practice so that it’s way easier for us to handle their physicality.”

The third quarter gave way for the Dukes to keep going and expand their lead. Freshman guard Kiki Jefferson expanded the lead before UNCW tried to close the point gap. Jefferson ended the game trying her career-high of 21 points.

“It felt great to come out and play for my mom,” Jefferson said. “I’m happy with how I did and how the team did.”

During the game, both teams wore pink uniforms in honor of those fighting and who of fought against breast cancer. Jefferson’s mom has just defeated cancer and is recovering from treatment, making it an emotional night for Jefferson and the entire team.

The Dukes finished the match with Benitez and Jefferson scoring and continuing to show a strong defense against UNCW. The Seahawks continued to make attempts to try and get as close to a score as possible, but the attempts were blocked off by strong offensive play.

“I thought we were ready,” O’Regan said. “We were kind of unshakable today with their pressure. I’m proud of the team's effort to get the win today.”

The Dukes take on Northeastern on Friday at 7 p.m. in Boston. Friday’s contest will start a two-game road trip before JMU returns to the Convocation Center for the last time in the program’s history on February 28 and March 2..

Contact Madison Hricik at hricikmn@dukes.jmu.edu. For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.