JMU Men’s Basketball Drops 107 Against Howard, Looks Legit in Home Opener

Images courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Daniel Merriman

JMU men’s basketball’s opening week was historic, and the Dukes capped it off by stomping Howard 107-86 on Sunday at the Atlantic Union Bank Center.

“What an incredible week to kick things off,” head coach Mark Byington said.

The Dukes went back and forth with the Bison to start the game, however, James Madison pulled away in the latter half of the first period and then left no doubt in the second half. The Dukes are now 3-0, with each win against 2023 NCAA Tournament teams. The Dukes could join their football peers inside the AP Top 25 on Monday.

Let’s break down a few key takeaways from the Dukes’ home opener.

Floor general

Michael Green III has been a critical addition to the Dukes’ squad. The Robert Morris transfer has been a clutch shotmaker for the Dukes, but Sunday his passing really shined. The Bronx native had eight assists and one turnover while commanding the offense. He accompanied his playmaking prowess with 17 points, 15 of which came from beyond the arc. He was 5-8 from three, which brings his season 3-point percentage to 50%.

His addition to the Dukes gives them a steady ball handler who can weather the storm when defensive pressure is stout. He will provide a calming presence come postseason play and his veteran savvy unlocks a new level to the Dukes’ offensive ceiling. If Mark Byington needs a bucket in isolation, Mike Green has been his man.

“I thought tonight he orchestrated the game perfect,” Byington said. “Making reads, getting other guys involved, and making the right decisions, and we needed that.”

Dukes’ depth

Six JMU players scored in double figures versus Howard, with four of the Dukes’ starters over 14 points. There was a level of offensive balance that was too much for the Bison to handle.

Julien Wooden led all scorers with 22 points as well as three rebounds and two blocks. T.J. Bickerstaff and Terrence Edwards also added 14 points apiece. Everyone got a piece of the pie offensively and that depth will pay dividends in March.

Against Kent State and Michigan State, the Dukes had to dig deep into their bench when foul trouble or overtime hit. This led to rotational players on the team getting some of the shine. Sunday, Quincy Allen was one of those guys. He contributed 13 points on a perfect 5-5 from the floor, 1-1 from 3-point range, and 2-2 from the line.

“I thought the separating point in the game was our bench tonight,” Byington said. “Quincy Allen and Raekwon Horton came in, and we went on a nice run. Their energy was great.”

Allen has incredible potential with his blend of athleticism, size, and outside shooting. It should be fun to watch him progress throughout his time in Harrisonburg, especially after seeing him catch a baseline alley-oop and slam a nasty put-back dunk on a Bison defender.

Horton has done nothing but play exceptional defense and hit clutch shots. He has been a key player for Byington’s squad.

3-point shooting

The Dukes have shot the ball exceptionally well in the past two games. Sunday featured a 55% (11-20) effort from distance.

When facing Kent State, they connected on 48.6% (17-35) of their triples. JMU has been elite from the 3-point line so far this year and that feeds perfectly into the style of basketball the Dukes want to play. Run and gun, seven seconds or less, pace and space — whatever you want to call it — the Dukes can run it to perfection.

JMU is currently averaging 99.7 points per game. That is not a typo, folks. JMU’s offense is incredibly productive and it will give fits to the entirety of the Sun Belt when conference play comes around.

Hype deserved

JMU looks like every ounce of the Sun Belt preseason favorite that they were projected to be. This team has the offensive skills and personnel to run through the SBC and be an NCAA tournament team come March.

The Dukes could be ranked in the AP Top 25 after having one of the best opening weeks in the entirety of college basketball. This team looks legit and just ran an NCAA Tournament team, albeit a 16 seed, out of the building.

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