For the fourth and final time this year, JMU women’s basketball faced Elon and completed its first weekend sweep of the season. The momentum from yesterday’s fourth quarter carried over throughout the game with the help of JMU’s offensive leaders for a 67-54 win.
In a more physical start than yesterday, the Dukes looked to break the split weekend habit they’ve dealt with throughout CAA play. Freshman guard Jamia Hazell sprung into action early in the game, leading the team at seven points by the end of the first quarter. The defense controlled its rebounds and forced steals that boosted the offense that JMU needed to start the game –– earning a quick 20-12 lead.
“I thought we were defending and trusting each other,” head coach Sean O’Regan said. “We’re starting to understand each other and play together, which is what this is all about for us.”
Momentum gathered in the first quarter carried into the second, resulting in an 11-0 scoring drought. The Dukes took over the scoreboard with the help of sophomore forward Rayne Tucker –– scoring 12 points and four rebounds prior to halftime. JMU’s defense’s confidence grew, ending the half with five steals and 19 rebounds. The Dukes held a commanding 35-19 at the half.
“I thought we had good bounce and good energy,” O’Regan said. “I think we approached this sweep with a ‘let’s go play mentality,’ and it helped.”
Controlling the scoreboard, the Dukes entered the second half looking to finish what they started. Sophomore guard Kiki Jefferson gave way for three rebounds in five minutes, on pace for her second double-double. Hazell scored more in the third, tying Jefferson and Tucker with 12 points each by the end of the third quarter.
“I’m just filling in roles wherever I’m needed,” Jefferson said. “I just go to where Coach [O’Regan] and the team needs me to be, and I’m happy to do it and fill in whatever role I can do.”
In the fourth quarter, JMU needed a calm finish to secure a much-needed win. Jefferson and Tucker led the team in points at 14, resulting in a 23-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Elon’s roster looked for a way to sway the scoreboard in its direction, but it continued to foul, and the tight-knit Dukes prevented any success.
JMU’s offense began to slow down from efforts from Elon to make a comeback. The Phoenix forced a near four-minute scoring drought for the Dukes, yet the efforts were left untouched as JMU sealed the game. The Dukes left the court with their first CAA weekend sweep of the season, boasting a 10-6 season record (6-3 CAA).
“We always say with a win we’re going to celebrate it today,” Jefferson said. “But we have another game on Wednesday, so we have to be prepared for that.”
Tucker, Jefferson and Hazell finished the game tied with 14 points each. Jefferson was a rebound away from a double-double, Tucker earned seven rebounds, and Hazell led the team in assists with five.
“It’s doing the little things like getting rebounds, blocks and little stops like that,” Tucker said. “It really fuels the team, and scoring just comes with it.”
JMU will take a short trip to Towson on Wednesday to finish its series from early January before facing Hofstra. Wednesday’s tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Contact Madison Hricik at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.