A Shock In S.C.
Charleston Hands Madison First Loss In Colonial, 85-79
Too many fouls on key players, no flow and a good game by the College of Charleston – and, just like that, the James Madison women’s basketball team is no longer undefeated in the Colonial Athletic Association.
The Dukes, who have already clinched the No. 1 seed in the CAA tournament, lost 85-79 Thursday at TD Arena in Charleston, S.C., blowing a nine-point lead as their 13-game conference win streak ended.
“We didn’t play well,” JMU coach Kenny Brooks said by phone on the bus back to Harrisonburg. “I thought Charleston played harder than we did throughout the game. They beat us to loose balls. They beat us on the boards. We weren’t really in sync. Really, the only two that had anything going were Kirby and Toia, and both of them were in foul trouble.”
Senior guard Kirby Burkholder and junior forward Toia Giggetts, who scored 25 and 18 points, respectively, sat for huge chunks, including much of the first half, because of fouls.
Both fouled out of the exceptionally early game, which started at 11:30 a.m. as part of “Education Day,” a promotion that allowed 1,500 third- through eighth-graders free admission after they spent the morning in College of Charleston’s math and science department. The game drew 1,895 people.
JMU (23-5 overall, 13-1 in the CAA) was trying to become the third straight team to go undefeated in CAA play. Delaware, the league champion in 2012 and 2013, did it the past two seasons, rolling to a 44-game Colonial win streak.
Brooks, though, was most concerned about how the loss affected his team’s NCAA résumé. The CAA is not considered a strong conference — its RPI, according to RealTimeRPI.com, is 13th out of 32 Division I leagues, with six mid-major conferences ahead of it — and the slip-up could hurt the Dukes’ odds of an at-large bid if they fail to win the Colonial tournament’s automatic berth. It also could hurt their seeding.
Before Thursday’s loss, ESPN’s Charlie Crème projected that Madison could be anywhere from a No. 7 seed to a 10 seed.
JMU last made the NCAA tournament in 2011, losing to Oklahoma in the first round. The Dukes haven’t won an NCAA game since 1991 (they won two that year); since then, they’ve appeared in the tournament in 1996, 2007, 2010 and 2011.
“It matters because you want to win as many as you can to help your chances of getting an NCAA bid, just in case something does happen in the [CAA] tournament,” Brooks said. “But I think this puts a little more pressure on you in the tournament. People always say it’s good to lose one. I don’t really believe that. [The loss] definitely will make us refocus. We didn’t play well. I bet you we missed 10 point-blank layups.”
JMU shot 36.4 percent (28-for-77) and got out-rebounded, 48-46. The Dukes, who entered the game outscoring league opponents by nearly 30 points a game, lead the CAA in rebounding margin: plus-11.1.
Charleston (15-12 overall, 8-6 in the CAA) shot 45.7 percent (32-for-70) — 51.6 percent in the second half — and took the lead for good with about four minutes to go, breaking the last of five ties. The Cougars then went on an 8-0 run to lock up the victory.
“We had chances. We were up by nine a couple of times and just couldn’t extend the lead,” Brooks said. “They came back and made some big shots when they had to. … Kirby sat from the 10-minute mark to the 4-minute mark [in the second half], and that was a big, big, big key — Kirby being in foul trouble and Toia being in foul trouble.”
Burkholder, in addition to the team-best 25 points, had seven rebounds, and sophomore guard Precious Hall added 13 points and five steals for JMU, which plays William & Mary on Sunday in the final regular-season game at the Convocation Center this season.
Senior forward Nikki Newman had nine rebounds while moving into a tie with Tarik Hislop, a senior last year, for the most games played at JMU with 140.
Alyssa Frye led Charleston, in its first CAA season, with a game-high 26 points.
Afreya Tolbert added 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Mikaela Hopkins and Jasmine Carter each had 12 points.
JMU won the first matchup, 92-59, on Jan. 31 at the Convo.
JAMES MADISON (23-5)
Giggetts 9-16 0-0 18, Newman 1-4 0-0 3, Hall 4-17 4-6 13, Burkholder 7-17 6-8 25, Gwathmey 2-10 0-0 5, Mickens 1-5 0-0 2, Okafor 3-7 1-2 7, Griffin 1-1 3-4 5. Totals 28-77 14-20 78.
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (15-12)
Bolden 3-10 1-4 7, Hopkins 6-10 0-2 12, Frye 8-13 7-9 26, Tolbert 7-10 5-6 19, Brown 2-5 0-0 4, Hall 1-2 0-0 2, Hewatt 0-1 0-0 0, Green 0-4 3-4 3, Carter 5-5 2-2 12. Totals 32-70 18-27 85.
Halftime score—James Madison 41-38. 3-point goals—James Madison 8-26 (Newman 1-3, Hall 1-8, Burkholder 5-14, Gwathmey 1-1), Charleston 3-11 (Frye 3-6, Hall 0-1, Hewatt 0-1). Fouled out—James Madison (Burkholder, Giggetts). Rebounds—James Madison 46 (Gwathmey 10), Charleston 48 (Tolbert 13). Assists—James Madison 13 (Newman 3), Charleston 14 (Brown 7). Total fouls—James Madison 21, Charleston 15. A—1,895.