App State Downs JMU Men’s Basketball at the AUBC

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Daniel Merriman

James Madison hosted Duke Dog Reading Day on Saturday, and with students coming back into town, the Atlantic Union Bank Center was filled to the gills for the Dukes’ matchup with App State.

The third-largest crowd in Atlantic Union Bank Center history (7,761 fans) impacted the game, but the Dukes didn’t give the home crowd much to cheer about in the first half.

This contest eerily emulated the football affair between these schools only two months ago. In contrast to the gridiron, this game did not go to overtime. JMU lost in regulation 59-55 to the Mountaineers.

Let’s take a look at how the Dukes fell to their biggest Sun Belt rival at home.

Mountaineers stifle potent Dukes’ offense

“We were too off in a lot of areas to be able to complete that game,” JMU head coach Mark Byington said after the loss. “I think we missed 15-20 shots within 2 feet.”

App State’s interior defense was extremely stout.

The centerpiece of the Mountaineers’ fortification around the paint was forward Justin Abson. The sophomore forward had a monster day with 12 points, eight boards, and four blocks. He altered tons of shots around the rim and forced JMU’s offensive attack into bad layup attempts all night.

T.J. Bickerstaff was extremely limited while being guarded by Abson. Bickerstaff finished the night with six points, seven rebounds, and three turnovers in 27 minutes. The six points were a season low.

App State’s defense is very legit — the Mountaineers are currently up to 37th nationally in defensive efficiency, per KenPom. 

Shooting woes continue

JMU couldn’t hit an outside shot in the game. There was not a triple made in the first half.

The Dukes finished shooting 17.6% from deep on 17 attempts. This poor shooting has been a theme in the team’s two losses. The Dukes have shot under 25% from 3-point range in three of their last four games.

Poor shooting was countered in part by James Madison’s Xavier Brown who hit two triples in the second period. He gave Mark Byington’s squad a spark off the bench with great offensive production and excellent defensive pressure. Brown finished the afternoon with five steals to lead all players

“Getting stops is my job … It means a lot to have the respect of your coach to guard the opposing starting guard down the stretch,” Brown said.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Three Notch’d Brewing for the advertising support.

Edwards endures tough pressure 

JMU’s Terrence “Fatt” Edwards was the primary scorer for the Dukes against App. He produced 21 points, five rebounds, four assists, and four steals however turned the ball over six times.

He was excellent in the first half and kept JMU slightly afloat. However, he made some costly mistakes in the second half with some ill-advised shots. Overall he finished the game 9-21 from the field.

Coach Byington still praised Edwards’ performance post-game, especially his first-half production.

“In the first half, he was the only one with any success on offense.” Byington said. “If we didn’t have his aggressiveness on offense and the plays he was making, we would have been in big trouble.”  

Tale of the tape

The Dukes were down by as much as 16 in the first 20 minutes of play. JMU made a large comeback at the end of the half going on an 11-0 run. App State’s lead was cut to five points at the break.

App State regrouped at halftime and grew its lead back to double digits in the early portion of the second half. The Dukes clawed back into the ballgame with great defensive effort and took a two-point lead off a late Julien Wooden corner 3. James Madison then proceeded to close the game by scoring just two points in the last 3:48. App State led for 33:47.

“We just made a couple more plays than they did at the end,” App State head coach Dustin Kerns said. “Just a great college basketball game with two really great teams … And after that, I need a little bit more than water quite frankly.”

Bottom line

JMU lost to the second-best team in the conference while playing very sloppy basketball.

I think this game was a combination of App’s incredible defense/length as well as the Dukes shooting themselves in the foot with poor shooting and subpar rebounding. This loss is not the end of the world, but it surely puts more pressure on Mark Byington’s squad to win the SBC tournament if they want a chance to play in March Madness. 

The Dukes are not off to a good start in Sun Belt Conference play, especially shooting the basketball. JMU is 16-70 from deep in their last three games, and that 22.8% mark on treys has led to the Dukes losing two of their last three.

Next up is ULM (4-11, 0-5 SBC) at the AUBC next Thursday.

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