Hot vs. Cold

JMU Surges Into Date With Weak ODU

Posted: January 2, 2013

HARRISONBURG — James Madison has lost its last eight meetings with Old Dominion in men’s basketball, finding itself on the wrong end of everything from a buzzer-beater to a blowout to an overtime game.

The Dukes, however, now appear to be the better team entering their Colonial Athletic Association opener tonight at ODU’s Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, even though they probably will be without point guard Devon Moore.

JMU has won five of its last six games, making it the hottest team in a weak CAA. Old Dominion, meanwhile, is uncharacteristically 2-11, albeit with a surprising victory over Virginia.

That doesn’t reduce the desire of the Dukes to defeat a traditional CAA powerhouse.

“I never beat them since I’ve been here, and we’ve never beat them since, I think, Coach [Matt] Brady’s first year,” leading scorer Rayshawn Goins, who transferred to JMU before the 2010-11 season, said accurately about his school, which last toppled the Monarchs on Jan. 7, 2009. “This will definitely be a big game. Their record don’t define how good they are. They play hard, they rebound the ball well, so we’re treating this game like any other game on the schedule. We ain’t going by their record.”

Moore, a senior and the Dukes’ best all-around player, did not travel to Norfolk with the team Tuesday because he was still in his native Ohio to be with his ill mother. Brady said he does not have a timetable for Moore’s return, and the Dukes will turn to freshman Ron Curry to sop up the primary point guard duties.

Curry is already playing starters’ minutes – roughly 28 per game – but has more frequently played in the role of an off-guard, alongside Moore.

JMU won’t be the only team relying on young players, though. That’s been ODU’s deal for the entire season, and it helps explain the team’s slow start.

The Monarchs use nine players, and all have started at least three games this season. The roles are constantly shifting because nothing has worked tremendously well.

Among the nine players, three are freshmen, two are sophomores and one is a senior who just transferred to Old Dominion last spring. Learning the Monarchs’ system on the fly, these inexperienced players have struggled to eke out victories against a robust schedule that has included games against Cleveland State, Murray State, Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth, Central Florida, Charleston and Virginia.

“This year, our schedule has really been a mismatch with a really young team,” coach Blaine Taylor said.

Two-time CAA Defensive Player of the Year Kent Bazemore – also ODU’s leading scorer as a senior – and rebound-gobbling power forward Chris Cooper are two of the four starters the Monarchs lost from last year.

Old Dominion was picked in the preseason to finish fifth in the Colonial – one spot ahead of JMU – but even Taylor admitted that ranking had more to do with the program’s reputation than its current players.

The current group is devoid of a true on-court leader, and ODU’s defense, the staple of Taylor’s teams over time, is run-of-the-mill. The Monarchs allow 69.9 points per game, which ranks eighth in the 11-team league. Last year ODU allowed 62.1 points per game, and the previous two seasons, under 60.

Another Taylor staple is controlling the glass. That, the Monarchs have taken care of this year. ODU’s plus-6.7 rebounding margin leads the CAA, and the Monarchs grab a conference-best 42.1 percent of their own misses.
“They do what they do,” Brady said. “Even though they’ve lost some games, some really close, when they’ve had late leads that have gotten away from them. This is still the Old Dominion team that leads the league in rebounding differential. Great offensive rebounding team.”

The Monarchs are a worse offensive unit than last year, but they’re more balanced than usual. On a given night, it’s difficult to project who will lead the team in scoring. In fact, six players have poured in 15-plus points this season – tied with JMU for the largest total in the CAA. Six players have also led the team in scoring.  

Senior center DeShawn Painter (11.3 points per game) is the only player averaging double figures. A transfer from North Carolina State who received a hardship waiver that allowed him to play immediately, Painter, who played in the Sweet 16 last year, was picked by some to be an All-CAA player. He’s been a bit inconsistent, but has scored 11-plus in each of his last four games, including a career-high 26-point performance in the Dec. 7 loss to Virginia Commonwealth.

Other potentially dangerous scorers for ODU include guards Donte Hill (9.9 ppg) and Dimiti Batten (8.2 ppg). Each reached double figures in a 67-61 overtime win at JMU last January.

That game, played exactly one year ago today, dropped the Dukes to 7-5 after they blew a 12-point second-half lead. It was the beginning of the end of the season for JMU, which lost senior Julius Wells to a heart problem after that game and won just five of its final 21.

In Brady’s tenure, JMU has lost to ODU by as many as 38 points (in the 2009 CIT semifinal) and was defeated by more than 16 two other times, but the Dukes have kept games tight more often than not.

While the Monarchs have struggled this season, they are still drawing an average attendance of 6,816 – slightly down from last year, but still the top mark in the CAA.

“It’s a big arena, it’s a great venue,” Brady said. “Our kids like playing there – they have, historically. It’s going to take a significant effort for us to win the game.”

This is the Dukes’ last scheduled visit to the Constant Convocation Center because ODU is leaving for Conference USA next season.

JMU has been off since winning consecutive games in Las Vegas on Dec. 22 and 23.