Sometimes a scoring run is all it takes, and JMU women’s basketball proved why. An explosive first quarter led to a dominant 77-54 win by the Dukes over North Carolina Central University (NCCU). Grabbing rebounds and transitioning onto offense was the key, and JMU used those to its advantage for the victory.
“We’re learning, we’re getting there,” head coach Sean (Coach O) O’Regan said. “I knew [who] we were going to be and I knew what the result was going to be, but I just didn’t know how we were going to get there.”
A 10-0 run to start the game was all JMU needed, and sophomore guard Jamia Hazell continued to perform well on offense. Wednesday's game was her fourth double-digit contest across the five games JMU's played. The Dukes never looked back from the early lead and showed no signs of stopping in the first 20 minutes.
Senior guard Jaylin Carodine was an offensive playmaker for the Dukes, grabbing 10 rebounds — three offensive and seven defensive — to keep the ball with the purple and gold. Working up and down the court, Carodine kept her feet moving throughout the first half.
“It’s always a big focus for me because that’s one of the things that I do,” Carodine said. “Coach O always tells us, ‘Go out there and compete for every possession,’ and that’s all I was doing … just going for the ball.”
Collectively, JMU saw an improvement in the team’s offensive rebounds compared to this season’s previous games — corralling 10 by halftime. Although NCCU tried to put up a fight, the Dukes had too much momentum early on, closing out the half with a 43-25 lead.
“Our main focus was just to beat them on the boards,” Hazell said. “We struggled with rebounds against Liberty, so we’re trying to improve them with each team we play.”
Going into the third quarter, the tide began to change. NCCU picked up its energy and went on a 12-0 run for nearly four minutes to close the gap.
Hazell and junior guard Kiki Jefferson answered the call by defending — Jefferson visited the free-throw line three times in the third. She may have been quiet over the last few games, but Jefferson sprang to life thanks to her defensive efforts.
“I thought Kiki got some of her swagger back,” O’Regan said. “Liberty jolted her a little bit, and I didn’t think she played with that same swagger that she usually has until the second half when we got her going — then it was regular old Kiki.”
The Eagles never let up their pressure heading into the fourth quarter, and while their efforts worked to get a few late shots, the Dukes’ energy came back. JMU worked through any remaining pressure to win the game 77-54.
JMU moves to 4-2 on the season, while NCCU drops to 0-5. Jefferson finished the game with a team-leading 23 points; Hazell had 15. The Dukes shot 41% from the paint but capitalized on free throws, going 20-for-23 over the 40 minutes. The Dukes now hit the road for a three-game road trip beginning with Buffalo on Nov. 27 at 2 p.m. NCCU travels to Elon for its next matchup on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m.
“I think we’re learning to play together and share,” O’Regan said. “I think we’re getting better, but it’s never smooth sailing.”
Contact Madison Hricik at email@example.com. For more basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.