UPPER MARLBORO, Md. -- For the second straight game, Kirby Burkholder’s 3-point shot was less than on.
Friday in the Colonial Athletic Association women’s basketball tournament quarterfinals, the James Madison shooting guard went just 2-for-5 from behind the arc and 3-of-7 overall.
Saturday in the semifinals, Burkholder’s cold streak continued, as she went 1-for-7 from and 2-for-14 overall — still, though, the CAA Player of the Year still found a way to contribute.
Burkholder grabbed a CAA tournament record 22 rebounds, and the top-seeded Dukes used a 16-0 run late in the first half to beat No. 4 Drexel 55-43 on Saturday at the Show Place Arena and advance to the title game for the first time since 2011.
“My shots weren’t falling,” said Burkholder, a 6-foot senior who also had 11 points, three assists and three steals. “When something’s not going right, you focus on something else. So I was focusing on the defensive end.
Of Burkholder’s 22 rebounds — the second highest single-game total in JMU history — 16 came on the defensive end for the Dukes (27-5), who will play second-seeded and two-time defending conference champion Delaware in the CAA final Sunday at noon. The game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet.
Burkholder had 13 rebounds at halftime, and Drexel (15-16) had nine as a team.
“They recognize if they’re not doing something out there, how can they do something different?” said Drexel coach Denise Dillon, whose team won the WNIT in 2013. “I think Kirby is a great rebounder, but 22 rebounds — that’s tremendous. She had 13 at the half. She out-rebounded us as a team. They’re just willing to do anything to get the win.”
Drexel eliminated JMU in the CAA semifinals the past two years after the Dukes won two straight conference championships in 2010 and 2011, and last year’s game was particularly ugly. JMU lost 50-34 and shot just 27.6 percent (16-of-58), prompting Brooks to joke that his team’s performance “probably set women’s basketball back a while.”
“There was a little bit of a sense of satisfaction because this time last year the disappointment was tremendous,” JMU coach Kenny Brooks said of beating Drexel to make the final. “We felt stifled. We felt like we really weren’t able to play our game, and they were the reason — they were the reason we didn’t win a championship or have a chance to win a championship.”
Burkholder and sophomore guard Precious Hall led JMU with 11 points each, and junior forward Toia Giggetts and sophomore forward Jazmon Gwathmey each had 10 for the Dukes, who out-rebounded Drexel 41-27 as a team — led by Burkholder’s 22. The JMU single-game record is 28 and held by Kathy Railey since Nov. 30, 1979.
Saturday against the Dragons, Burkholder did it, as usual, her way.
“Kirby can play defense when she wants to,” Brooks said. “We call it ‘Kirby Defense.’ … We have our scheme, and she kind of roams and does what she want to, regardless of what Coach Brooks says. And a lot of times, it turns out positive. … She’ll tell you: She’s not the most talented, she’s not the strongest, she’s not the most athletic, but she has a knack for getting the ball and she did a really good job of being assertive on the boards.”
Early Saturday, the game was tight. JMU and Drexel traded leads three times and there were five ties. Then, the Dukes started pressing and took over, imposing tempo and holding Drexel without a field goal for about nine minutes.
With 4:26 left in the first half, Madison opened a 16-0 run — 11-0 to end the first half — that lasted until the 16:22 mark in the second half.
When the run started, it was tied 18-18. When it ended on two Drexel free throws, JMU led 34-18, thanks to the Dukes controlling tempo — always a factor in Madison-Drexel games. JMU likes to run; the Dragons prefer to go slow.
It was all the Dukes needed. They led by a game-best 21 with 5:16 left, and with about 13 minutes left in the second half, had Drexel shooting just 7.1 percent in the final period.
For the game, the Dragons shot 31.9 percent (15-of-47), and that number’s padded by an end-of-game 9-0 flurry that just made the score closer after Drexel trailed by 21 points.
Fiona Flanagan and Abby Redick led the Dragons with 10 points each.
JMU shot 37.5 percent (21-of-56).
Redick 4-8 2-2 10, Thierolf 2-11 2-2 7, Creighton 0-7 2-2 2, Pearson 3-7 0-0 9, Flanagan 4-5 0-0 10, Curran 2-5 0-0 4, Alexander 0-2 1-2 1, Smith 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 15-47 7-8 43.
Giggetts 5-9 0-0 10, Newman 1-4 0-0 2, Hall 4-15 2-4 11, Burkholder 2-14 6-6 11, Gwathmey 4-7 2-2 10, Mickens 4-6 0-0 8, Griffin 1-1 1-1 3. Totals 21-56 11-13 55.
Halftime score—29-18 James Madison. 3-point goals—Drexel 6-13 (Thierolf 1-2, Creighton 0-3, Pearson 3-4, Flanagan 2-2, Smith 0-2), James Madison 2-21 (Newman 0-3, Hall 1-10, Burkholder 1-7, Mickens 0-1). Fouled out—none. Rebounds—Drexel 27 (Thierfolf 6, Flanagan 6), James Madison 41 (Burkholder 22). Assists—Drexel 12 (Pearson 3, Curran 3), James Madison 7 (Burkholder 3). Total fouls—Drexel 12, James Madison 9.