Delaware Dominates JMU
Bessick loses starting job in 81-65 blowout
NEWARK, Del. -- Frustrated by his team's lackluster effort and failure to restrain its emotions on Wednesday night, James Madison basketball coach Matt Brady refused to make his players available to the media following an 81-65 drubbing at the hands of Colonial Athletic Association leader Delaware.
Brady, though, wasn't shy when it came to identifying what irked him most about his team's fourth loss in its past five games -- this one coming in front of a crowd of 4,412 at the Bob Carpenter Center.
"I don't think they're in the right place, in the right frame of mind, as evidenced by that scrum on the sideline, which I'm not happy about," the sixth-year JMU coach said. "I thought that was out of place and out of character for my guys. So for the first time in my 10 years (as a head coach), I would say to you our guys are on edge a little bit because of how poorly they played and how badly they got outplayed."
The sequence Brady referenced, a second-half sideline scuffle resulting in four separate technical fouls, was a mere side note in a game dominated from start to finish by the Blue Hens (19-7, 11-0 CAA).
The bigger news as far as JMU was concerned came afterwards, when Brady announced freshman forward Yohanny Dalembert -- who came off the bench to record career-highs in both points (15) and rebounds (13) -- would be starting in place of sophomore Taylor Bessick on Saturday against UNC-Wilmington.
Bessick logged just 51 seconds of court time in the second half on Wednesday and seems to have firmly planted himself inside of Brady's doghouse.
"He didn't deserve to play," Brady said. "He clearly got outplayed and I think his body language was awful."
With Madison (9-17, 4-8) trailing 58-42 and less than 14 minutes remaining in regulation, JMU's Charles Cooke was tossed to the ground while attempting to wrestle the ball away from Barnett Harris in front of Delaware's bench.
A brief shoving match between members of both teams ensued and following a near 10-minute stoppage of play for a video review, the officiating crew accessed Madison's Andre Nation and Tom Vodanovich and Delaware's Devonne Pinkard and Harris with offsetting technical fouls.
"If that's it," Brady said of the initial scrum between Cooke and Harris, "then we get the ball and a technical (on Harris). But (the refs) go to the monitor, and we have a player who pushed one of their guys. You just can't do it."
The Dukes couldn't do much to slow down Delaware senior Davon Usher, either.
Coming off a 42-point performance in the Blue Hens' most recent outing, a 67-64 comeback win over College of Charleston on Feb. 5, Usher again erupted -- pouring in a game-high 34 points to guide Delaware to its 13th consecutive victory.
The Mississippi Valley State transfer scored seven points over a 21-second stretch in the first half, converting a four-point play before burying another 3-pointer in transition as the Blue Hens' advantage swelled to 31-17.
After that point, Madison got no closer than 13 down for the remainder of the game and trailed by as many as 22 points.
"He's unconscious," said fifth-year senior forward Carl Baptiste, who hit all seven of his first-half field goal attempts and finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds. "We knew what (Usher) was capable of, and he was the missing piece to our team: that three-man who can stretch out the floor."
Dalembert's play helped provide some reason for optimism on an otherwise bleak night for the Dukes. In 26 minutes of action, Dalembert corralled eight offensive rebounds and was at times the best player on the court.
"I thought he was really good," Brady said. "He played with really good energy, and like I said, he's a kid who's a work in progress but I think he can be really good. I think the same thing of Taylor Bessick, but Taylor had his worst day at the office since he's been at JMU. There's nothing to make out of that other than he's got to lift his level and compete, and tonight I don't think he competed at all."
That lack of competitive drive, in Brady's opinion, has been Bessick's biggest problem recently.
"I don't think that Taylor competes," Brady said. "He didn't compete tonight, and he has a hard time competing every day in practice. He's gotta learn, and he's gotta improve in that aspect. He's gotta become more skillful, he's gotta become more competitive and he's gotta make some hustle plays.
"This is not really about scoring the ball. This is about doing all the small things to help your team, and he's not the only guy (struggling in that area) but certainly tonight he had the most difficulty competing at a high level."
Madison was playing its third game in five days while Delaware was coming off a week-long layoff, but Brady refused to use tired legs as an excuse.
"I think we had made some positive steps; this was not a positive step," he said. "And I would say to (my players), you have to figure out how to buy into the game plan every single game. We did nothing according to the script. (Delaware) played really well. We didn't. And I'm not making a lot more out of it than that, but they competed at a higher level than we did. To me, there's no excuse. They punched us in the mouth, and we didn't play well enough today."
NOTES: Because of Wednesday's inclement weather, JMU was forced to remain in Newark for the night. ... In the loss, Madison sixth-year senior Andrey Semenov broke former teammate Pierre Curtis' school record for career games played. Semenov has now appeared in 127 games. ... With Wednesday's win, Delaware matched Richmond (1985-86) and VCU (2006-07) for the best start in Colonial history at 11-0.