A Nugget Of A Victory For JMU
Posted: February 22, 2013
HARRISONBURG — Jazmon Gwathmey didn’t know she was perfect form the field and didn’t know when she set a career high for points, but she was well aware that her baseline jumper with 23 seconds remaining gave James Madison its coveted 79th point, which triggered a free food promotion for the 2,147 fans in attendance Tuesday night.
Four Dukes reached double-figures in a 79-45 win over Towson, but it was fitting that Gwathmey scored the points that caused the crowd to cheer loudest. She earned the applause.
The redshirt freshman went 8-for-8 from the floor and grabbed nine rebounds to go with a career high of 17 points, leading Madison to a runaway victory.
“I continue to be impressed by her and her ability to keep getting better,” JMU coach Kenny Brooks said of Gwathmey, a 6-foot-2 starter who has bounced around between small forward and power forward this season. “I think she’s one of the most talented freshmen in this league and just now getting her opportunity to stay out there for extensive minutes. She’s becoming a tremendous player for us, and I think she’s only going to get better.”
Senior guard Tarik Hislop also scored 17 for the Dukes (18-8 overall, 12-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association), while guards Precious Hall and Kirby Burkholder added 14 apiece.
Burkholder missed all six of her shots in the first half, but drilled three straight 3s at the beginning of the second to put the Tigers (9-17, 3-12) away early.
“It’s probably a good thing that child protective services weren’t in there, the way I yelled at Kirby, to really get herself going and to be confident in her shots,” Brooks said of his halftime message to the former Turner Ashby High School standout “… When she is confident, she’s able to bust open a game, which was the case in the second half.”
With the score tied 11-11, JMU scored 23 of the game’s next 30 points. The Dukes never stopped adding to their advantage, building a lead as large as 36 points in the final minute. They shot a whopping 67.7 percent (21-for-31) in the second half, compared to 31.4 percent through the game’s first 20 minutes.
“I think we just really played for each other more and that opened each other up better, and we just knocked down shots,” Burkholder said. “We flowed a lot better in the second half.”
JMU plays at first-place Delaware — ranked 18th in the country and undefeated in the CAA — on Saturday, but Brooks said he did not think his team’s slow start against Towson was due to it overlooking the Tigers for UD.
Aside from Gwathmey, the Dukes made just six of their 30 shots in the first half. But the Bealeton native carried JMU when everyone else was struggling.
“I just felt more confident shooting,” Gwathmey said. “I shot with Coach Brooks before the game today. I was just feeling it, so I knew today was probably going to be my day.”
The worst thing you could say about Gwathmey is that she wasn’t perfect — just exceptionally close. With 7:43 remaining, she hit the first of two free throws to match her previous career best of 13 points, but missed the next one. Two possessions later, it appeared she exceeded her mark with a driving layup, but she was whistled for a charging violation.
She later connected on an elbow jump shot with 5:47 remaining that put JMU ahead 60-35. Her final basket in the final minute splashed through to the delight of the fans, who went home with coupons for free chicken nuggets from Chick-Fil-A.
“I don’t really know how many points I have until at the end of the game when I look up,” Gwathmey said.
But as for the 79 as a team?
“Oh, yeah. I heard chicken nuggets all the way. All right — 79.”