JMU Men’s basketball set to host hofstra for weekend series

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Jack Fitzpatrick

JMU plays host to Hofstra this weekend for another CAA test. So far in “CAA tests” this season against Northeastern and Drexel the Dukes are 2-1 and look, dare I say, good? 

The first of the weekend series will tip on Saturday at 2 PM ET from the Atlantic Union Bank Center. JMU is coming into this game fresh off a CAA bout with Elon down in North Carolina on Tuesday. The Dukes picked up a key 70-61 win to move to 6-1 in conference play and 8-2 in games played in 2021 and 11-5 on the season. 

The basics for the Pride

  • Record: 12-7
  • Conference: 8-4
  • Last 5: 4-1
  • Key wins: Richmond by 5

How to watch

  • You can stream the game on FloSports with coverage starting at tip-off. If you don’t have a Flo account, you can follow this link to get a discounted, $7.99 a month rate. 
  • If you are local to the Harrisonburg area you can listen on 550 AM or 92.1 FM. If you are out of the area and want to listen to Dave Thomas call the game over the FloHoops broadcast it is also available on the JMU Glo Fiber broadcast
  • The Saturday game is also available on NBC Sports Washington. 

Head coach Joe Mihalich- Currently out on medical leave 

  • Was head coach at Niagara since 1998 leading it to three NIT berths and two NCAA berths. 
  • Has an overall record of 406-295 over his 22 years and a 141-92 record through seven years at Hofstra. 
  • Led the Pride to a CBI and NIT berth and secured a spot in the NCAA tournament last season before the season was canceled. 
  • Announced on Aug. 26 that he would be taking a temporary medical leave

Acting head coach Mike Farrelly

  • Promoted to associate head coach in 2019
  • Has been on staff for the previous eight seasons
  • Named one of the 50 most Impactful Mid Major Assistants by Silver Waves Media
  • Ranked as a top CAA assistant

Key Stats this season

  • Points per game: 72.8 
  • Opponents points per game: 71.6
  • FG Percentage: 44.2%
  • Opponents FG percentage: 45.2% 
  • 3PT percentage: 31.9%
  • Opponents 3PT percentage: 33.5%
  • Rebounds per game: 35.5
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 34.2
  • Turnovers per game: 12.2
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 12.4 

Team Leaders

  • Jalen Ray: Ray is the team’s leading scorer with 17.9 PPG this season, which is third in the CAA. He has scored in double figures in all but three games this season but is coming off a season-low in points against Drexel on Feb. 7, where he put up just 5 points on 1-11 shooting from the field. 

The 6’2 senior guard is fairly efficient from the floor shooting 41.2% from the field and 35.7% from behind the arc. Ray was an honorable mention to the Preseason All-CAA team and earned All-Tournament honors after dropping 14, 19 and 17 in each CAA tournament game last season. 

Another part of Ray’s game that goes unnoticed is his passing ability. He is second on Hofstra with 3.5 a game and has a 1.7 assist/turnover ratio which is 6th best in the CAA. (Two of the top three in that stat category will also be playing in this game in Caleb Burgess and Matt Lewis.) 

  • Isaac Kante: Kante is the second of three Hofstra players to average double digits on the season, but outside of his scoring prowess, the 6’7 junior center has been a monster on the boards for the Pride. 

Kante pulls down 10.2 rebounds a game, with 7.5 coming on the defensive glass and 2.8 coming on the offensive glass. For an undersized big man, he is an elite rebounder that is almost certainly going to provide problems for JMU’s undersized frontcourt. Kante ranks second in the CAA in rebounds per game behind only Dylan Painter of Delaware.

Kante can also hurt opposing defenses on the offensive end as well. He is an elite scorer in the CAA averaging 13.6 PPG on 55.1% shooting. He ranks in the top 15 in the CAA in PPG and is 5th in field goal percentage. 

Kante is an interior presence for the Pride. He hasn’t taken a single three all season and lives and breathes in the paint. Last season in the CAA Tournament he balled out pulling down 32 total rebounds across the three games. This Kante-Amadi matchup is one to keep your eye on as the older and more experienced Kante is going to attack Amadi early and often to try and get the freshman in foul trouble. 

  • Tariq Coburn: Yet another experienced guard, Tareq Coburn is another offensive threat for the Pride. He is the team’s second-leading scorer with 15.2 PPG. He shoots a solid 43.1% from the floor and 39.1% from deep. Coburn is the 10th leading scorer in the CAA and his three-point field goal percentage is ninth. Much like Ray, Coburn is an elite scorer that is going to present problems for the JMU defense. 

This season he has scored in double digits in every game except five and has scored 20+ four times. He isn’t the biggest distributor of the basketball, averaging less than one assist a game and only has 15 total on the season, but in Coburn’s case, that doesn’t matter since he is one of the best true scorers in the CAA. 

What to expect

  • High scoring
  • Questionable defense allowing offensive opportunities
  • Guard Play will be huge

This game is the next test for the Dukes. They have shown they can beat up on the bottom feeders of the CAA and that they can compete at a relatively high level against teams near the top of the standings. 

Hofstra though is different. 

The Pride are a team that are consistently a top-end CAA team. They’re the defending CAA tournament champions and have won the regular season the past two seasons. This season is different, Hofstra has slipped a bit in terms of on the court play as they are sitting at 8-4 in conference play and Joe Mihalich isn’t on the sidelines for this season due to medical reasons. Even with that said this is still a game, and a series, that if JMU can sweep or even split will legitimize the season up to this point. 

The game is going to be a high scoring affair, both sides have elite scorers across the board and can fill up the stat sheet on the offensive side. JMU leads the CAA in scoring offense while Hofstra is the number three team in the league. According to Team Rankings Hofstra has an effective possession ratio of .957 while JMU is just under that at .946 (effective possession ratio, or EPR, is the number of shot opportunities per possession). Both of these offenses have been great all season and it has seemed the only way they can be slowed down is turnovers. Both sides are going to get their shots up and make runs, this game is going to come down not to which offense can make a run, but which defense can hold on long enough for their side to build a solid lead.  

Another key to this game is the zone defense Hofstra typically plays, it is a defense that forces shooters to spot up and make jumpers and tends to close out the interior of an offense. However, if JMU starts hitting their shots it will open things up on the inside allowing Amadi to go to work against the similar-sized Kante down in the post. This type of defensive play favors the Dukes if they can move the ball well and find the open shooter.   

Last but certainly not least, guard play is going to be huge. An experienced backcourt in Coburn and Ray facing off against the dynamic duo of Lewis and Vado Morse is going to be a treat to watch. This game is going to come down to which duo makes their shots and doesn’t make sloppy turnovers. 

A fun tidbit to finish this preview out: Matt Lewis has historically had tremendous success against the Pride averaging 22.3 ppg including a 40 point outing his sophomore year. Is it because the defense Hofstra employs allows Lewis space to make shots and he takes advantage of that? It very well could be, all I know is he tends to have some very solid games against the Pride and will need two more great ones this weekend if JMU wants to take this series. 

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