HARRISONBURG, Va. – With 23.7 seconds remaining in regulation, a last-second three-point attempt by Anthony Stitt (Charlotte, N.C.) fell short of a possible game-winner as defending Colonial Athletic Association champion James Madison hung on for the 58-56 win over College of Charleston on Saturday before a crowd of 3,987 at the JMU Convocation Center.
The Cougars (11-10, 3-3 CAA) built an eight-point lead early in the first half of play as graduate senior forward Willis Hall (Charlotte, N.C.) scored nine of the team’s first 16 points against the Dukes (7-13, 2-4 CAA). Hall became the 31st player in program history to record 1,000 career points on a made jumper at the 10:01 minute mark which gave CofC a 16-8 advantage.
James Madison chipped away at that lead as Charleston got into foul trouble early with senior starters Anthony Thomas (Winston-Salem, N.C.) and Nori Johnson (Greer, S.C.) being called with three each before the half.
Jackson Kent came off the bench and was the biggest contributor as the Dukes avenged a loss to the Cougars in the CAA opener on Jan. 7. The freshman scored seven of his team-leading 17 points in the first half including a jumper that gave JMU its first lead, 19-18, with 4:20 on the clock.
The Dukes took a 28-23 lead into the locker room after completing the half on a 9-0 run. They led for the first eight minutes of the second half until a three-pointer by sophomore reserve Theo Johnson (Sacramento, Calif.) gave CofC back the lead, 42-40, with 12:26 left to play.
Three ties followed thereafter as junior big man Adjehi Baru (Abidjan, Ivory Coast) kept the Cougars in the ballgame in the second half. His free throw and a jumper by Thomas put Charleston out in front by three, 48-45, with 9:09 remaining, but Kent would go on to score the next seven-straight points for JMU.
Baru ended the contest with his fifth double-double of the season with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while Hall registered a game-high 22 points.
CofC shot 43.2 percent from the floor, but continued to be marred by fouls and 23.8 percent shooting from behind the three-point arc (5-of-21). JMU took advantage of those fouls going 16-for-26 from the free throw line including 4-for-6 in the final stretch.
Charleston had a chance in the final minutes to tie, but made back-to-back turnovers which proved costly in the comeback effort. Baru was fouled with 28 seconds remaining and made both at the line to make it a one-point game, 57-56, leading to the last-second shot attempt by Stitt.
The Cougars will travel next to William & Mary (11-7, 3-2 CAA) for a Monday, Jan. 27 first-time meeting between the two programs at 7 p.m. (ET) in Williamsburg, Va. The game will not be televised, but will be available on ESPN 910 AM radio in Charleston.
· For the third time this season and third-straight game, the Cougars used the starting lineup of junior guard Anthony Stitt, senior combo guard Nori Johnson, senior small forward Anthony Thomas, graduate senior forward Willis Hall and junior forward Adjehi Baru (1-2).
· James Madison claims its first win in the three-game all-time series to which College of Charleston still leads 2-1. Both teams split the regular-season series in CofC’s inaugural season as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association.
· Willis Hall recorded his seventh career 20-point game with a game-high 22 points against James Madison. He became the 31st player in school history to record 1,000 career points on a made jumper at the 10:01 minute mark of the first half. Hall has now totaled 1,014 career points to date. He is one of only nine players all-time (fourth in the program’s NCAA Division I era) to record 1,000 points and grab more than 700 rebounds in a career (748). CofC has now had a player gain entrance into the 1,000-Career Point Club in each of the last six years since 2009. Hall is currently on a four-game double-digit scoring streak.
· Adjehi Baru registered his 14th career double-double, fifth of the season, with 13 points and a season-high tying 13 rebounds. He has now scored in double figures on 10 occasions this year.
· CofC won the rebounding war for the 14th time this season and third-straight against a CAA opponent in league play, 31-30 (+1), against JMU.
College of Charleston Head Coach Doug Wojcik
On the difference in the game down-the-stretch …
“We had two turnovers. We got called for a charge in the post by Anthony Thomas and Theo Johnson had a turnover. That’s the difference. We had a chance. They (James Madison) just made more plays down the stretch. At the end of the day, they made one more three-pointer than us and beat us at the free throw line.”
On the difference in rebounding between the first meeting of the season to both teams’ second …
“There weren’t many shots. We only had 44 shots per team. Give them credit. They know us better now. They battled on the boards today in comparison to the first game.”
On the tempo of the game …
“We wanted to play fast. In the first half, we were in foul trouble with an eight-point lead and had two guys on the bench with three fouls. I thought we had a favorable whistle in the second half and it was more even. We just didn’t make enough shots. We went 5-for-21 from three and they outscored us in the back court 44-to-11. Jackson Kent, (Ron) Curry and (Andre) Nation scored 44 points, while Anthony Stitt, Anthony Thomas and Nori Johnson scored 11 and that’s the game.”
College of Charleston Graduate Senior Forward Willis Hall
On the difference in the game down-the-stretch …
“We were making stop after stop, but we were letting guys like Jackson Kent have a factor in the game. When you let guys make plays like he did, it makes a huge difference. It (Kent’s play) wasn’t a surprise to us. He is a great player and had an incredible game. We knew guys like him, (Andre) Nation, (Ron) Curry and (Andrey) Semenov, we knew they would be dangerous. As far as the statistics in rebounding, Adjehi Baru was banging in there and rebounding for us. They (JMU) just came in ready to battle.”