Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Bennett Conlin
After splitting a road series at Elon, JMU women’s basketball returns home for a pair of games against Northeastern. The Dukes return to the familiar confines of the Atlantic Union Bank Center, and they also return a familiar face to the sidelines.
After missing the Elon games due to a positive COVID-19 test, head coach Sean O’Regan is back on the sidelines. He’s excited to be back, saying during his O’Neill’s Grill press conference that he was yelling at his TV screen during the team’s loss to Elon.
Now that he’s back, the focus turns to sweeping a weekend series.
“We are James Madison,” O’Regan said Monday. “We not one of these teams that can be OK with a split on the road. That’s not our goal. That’s never gonna be our goal.”
The goal is clear this weekend: sweep Northeastern.
Tip off times: 1 p.m. on both Saturday (Jan. 23) and Sunday (Jan. 24)
JMU’s record: 6-4, 2-1 CAA
Record: 2-5, 1-3 CAA
Head coach: Kelly Cole (82-108 overall at Northeastern, 48-64 in CAA, seventh season for Cole)
Points per game: 59.1
Points allowed per game: 65.2
Leading scorer: Mide Oriyomi, 13.9 points per game
Quick scouting breakdown
Oriyomi leads Northeastern in points per game and rebounds per contest (7.4). She’s a forward, but she’s only listed at 5’10”, giving a few JMU players a height advantage in the post and on the glass.
Northeastern, predicted to finish tied fourth in the league before the season began, has played this entire year without preseason first team All-CAA selection Alexis Hill. They’ve also been without usual starter Katie May this season.
Any team without two starters would suffer, and Northeastern has. The Huskies are just 2-5 on the season, in part due to a lack of available pieces. We struggled to find any readily available information on the future availability of Hill and May, but without the duo it could be a long CAA season for Northeastern.
With those two players, the Huskies become a dangerous CAA contender, especially with Oriyomi’s solid play.
What to expect this weekend
JMU should be motivated following a 22-point loss in its most recent game. The Dukes want to sweep conference games, and they’re in a good spot to do so against a Northeastern team that has been without its top players.
Even without a couple key pieces, Northeastern isn’t a push over. The Huskies have won two games in a row and possess a few talented players capable of testing JMU. It’ll be interesting to see how the Dukes, who have struggled on defense at times, opt to guard Oriyomi.
The Dukes need to limit turnovers after committing 24 in the loss to Elon. JMU ranks at the bottom of the CAA in assist-to-turnover ratio. In the loss to Elon, JMU beat itself for much of the afternoon.
Offensively, JMU should score as long as it doesn’t squander too many possessions with turnovers. The Huskies aren’t great defensively, and they struggle at times on the defensive glass. JMU thrives when it secures offensive rebounds, and it should find chances to snag offensive boards this weekend.
Defensively, JMU needs to improve as the season progresses. Fortunately for the Dukes, Northeastern struggles shooting the ball, especially from the 3-point line. This makes some sense, as they’ve played seven games without a pair of usual starters.
Assuming Northeastern remains without Hill, it’s hard to expect anything other than a JMU sweep this weekend.