Drexel Stifles JMU
Posted: February 11, 2013
PHILADELPHIA — After some losses this season, coach Matt Brady and his James Madison men’s basketball players have appeared agonized — frustrated by a lack of execution or attention to detail.
Not after Sunday’s 60-48 loss at Drexel.
The Dukes could only pay respect to the Dragons, who played suffocating defense and limited JMU to a measly 12-first half points in a regionally televised Colonial Athletic Association matchup.
“All the credit in the world goes to Drexel in this game,” Brady said. “I thought their defense for 40 minutes was high level. They were physical, tough-minded, they came up with most of the loose balls and they held us to a bucket there for a long period in the first half, where I think the game was decided.
“Most of the time, college basketball games aren’t decided in the first half. This one probably was.”
Madison went nearly 10 minutes without a point and scored just three in the final 13:30 of the first half as Drexel slowly turned a 9-4 deficit into a 23-12 lead at intermission. JMU’s dozen points were one more than the school record for fewest in a first half, set in 2001 against William & Mary.
The Dukes (14-12 overall, 8-5 in the CAA) dropped a spot, down to fourth, in the conference standings, and have just one day off before hosting Towson on Tuesday. The Tigers, who have won four straight, provided similar problems for JMU’s offense in the teams’ first meeting, a 73-47 blowout in Maryland last month.
Drexel (10-14, 6-6) shook off two consecutive losses with its second-most lopsided victory of the season. Junior point guard Frantz Massenat scored 14 and senior guard Derrick Thomas added 13 for Drexel, which shot just 41.7 percent from the field but imposed its will on the other end of the court.
While JMU struggled from the field, making just 27.8 percent of its shots in the opening 20 minutes, it wasn’t as if the Dukes were clanking wide-open jumpers or easy layups.
Drexel, which has the second-stingiest defense in CAA play, behind only JMU, didn’t give the Dukes any airspace in its already snug Daskalakis Athletic Center.
“When they play as well as they’re playing, they can guard anybody,” JMU point guard Devon Moore said. “…They took us out of our mode and the way we were supposed to play. It was kind of hard playing here because of the pressure they put on the guards and the pressure they put on the bigs, too.”
JMU beat the Dragons last month in Harrisonburg, but Drexel was playing that day without two of its starters: guard Damion Lee and forward Daryl McCoy. Both were in the lineup Sunday, and they helped contribute to the Dukes’ woes.
The Dragons were the preseason pick to win the CAA but entered Sunday with a sub-.500 league record after losing at home to Old Dominion, previously winless in the Colonial, on Thursday. Bruiser Flint’s team looked locked in against JMU, giving the Dukes trouble even inbounding the ball.
Inconsistent throughout the season, Drexel looked like the team most people predicted to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament.
“Tonight we played some defense, made a couple shots and just played better basketball,” Flint said.
JMU cut its deficit to seven points on a shot by Moore early in the first half, but shortly after, with the Dragons’ lead then at eight, the Dukes suffered a backbreaking sequence. Massenat made a 3-pointer from the top of the arc while drawing a foul. Though he missed the ensuing free throw, teammate Dartaye Ruffin rebounded it and scored on a put-back, giving Drexel a five-point possession and 31-18 lead.
JMU didn’t get within single digits again until freshman Charles Cooke made a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left. Cooke notched a career-high 16 points – the bulk of them coming in a futile late-game comeback attempt. Rayshawn Goins scored 11, and Moore had 10, but the Dukes’ typically productive bench added only five points.
“They contested every shot,” Goins said. “Didn’t give us nothing easy at the basket. They play good defense. Drexel is a good, hard-working defensive team and they showed it tonight.”