JMU Faces CAA’s Fastest-Pace Team
Posted: January 23, 2013
HARRISONBURG — After the NHL lockout ended this month, the Washington Capitals were scheduled to play Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens, which meant that Comcast Sports Net could no longer televise the event previously in that slot: James Madison’s basketball game with Delaware.
Without TV considerations, both schools agreed to play the game tonight instead of Thursday, putting them back into their normal weekly routine – and giving them more time before their next games.
TV or not, today’s 7 p.m. Colonial Athletic Association battle at the Convocation Center shapes up to be quite entertaining, even though both teams have losing records.
Delaware operates at a hockey-like up-and-down pace (at least by CAA standards), leading the conference in possessions per 40 minutes (68.6). The Blue Hens also give up plenty of points, too, and find themselves, like the Dukes, on a two-game losing skid.
“If you [asked] me in the preseason, ‘Who’s got the best starting five,’ I probably would have said this Delaware team,” JMU coach Matt Brady said. “And here they are 8-10 overall and 3-2 in the league. But they were in this exactly same spot last year.”
The Hens had a losing record more than halfway through last season before winning their final eight regular-season games.
Without significant departures, they carried big expectations into this season but have again started slow due to an inconsistent defense. They lost two home games last week, against Towson and Northeastern.
“Defensively, we were not very sharp and that’s one of the things that we had been in our previous three games,” coach Monté Ross said.
But Delaware, which leads the conference with 69.3 points per game, can outshoot any opponent on any night.
Junior combo guard Devon Saddler leads the league in scoring (19.3 points per game, 21.0 in CAA games), and is joined by sophomore guard Jarvis Threatt (12.7 ppg) and senior forward Jamelle Hagins (12.6 ppg) in the Colonial’s top 20.
Sophomore guard Kyle Anderson is also capable of going off. He scored a season-high 19 points Saturday in the 74-70 loss to NU.
Hagins, a Roanoke native who’s also second in the league in rebounds (11.7 per game) and first in blocks (2.6), dismantled JMU last time he was in the Convo. In the teams’ only meeting last season, he tallied 23 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks in an 85-80 win that Delaware led from start to finish.
“Hagins, I think, is a guy who’s got NBA potential,” Brady said. “He’s not scoring at that level, but he rebounds at that level, he blocks shots, he defends at that level; he’s got that kind of ability.
“We just couldn’t guard him in the low-post [during the second half of last year’s game].”
The 6-foot-9, 235-pounder may be hard to stop, especially considering JMU’s most recent ailments. Power forward Rayshawn Goins, the Dukes’ leading scorer at 14.3 per game, has been slowed by the flu this week. Point guard Devon Moore also has shown symptoms, and Brady has minimized practice time to avoid wearing out what could be tired players.
The Dukes (9-10, 3-3) probably will need to be fresh: This figures to be an up-and-down game with plenty of points.
Within CAA play, the Blue Hens are the top shooting team in terms of both field goal average (48.2 percent) and true shooting percentage (59.9 percent), a metric that weights shots based on their value.
The 6-2, 210-pound Saddler averaged 26.3 points in the Hens’ first three CAA games – all wins, part of an overall five-game winning streak that immediately preceded the last two losses. Threatt, just a 6-2, 165-pounder, went 34-for-39 in the first three CAA games. Hagins has posted 11 double-doubles this season. That ranks fifth nationally.
“They’ve got bigs that can score, they’ve got guards that can score,” JMU’s Moore said. “… I know that they’re coming off a loss and we’re coming off a loss, too. The hungrier team is going to win the game.”
After a wretched 25.5-percent shooting performance in a 73-47 embarrassment at Towson last weekend, Madison might have more luck offensively against Delaware, which allows more than 70 points per game – second-worst in the CAA in front of only Hofstra. The Dukes, who play five of their next six games at home, are averaging 70 points per game in the Convocation Center this season.
Defense might be the biggest challenge tonight.
“Contain Saddler, keep Hagins off the glass, and just play defense,” freshman Andre Nation said, when asked about the keys to minimizing UDel’s effectiveness. “We’ve got to play help-side D. We need guys who want to help the helper’s helper. … Just playing team defense, good team rotation. Just execute what we do. We can beat any team in this league if we do what we gotta do.”
Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday. If the game had not been moved up 25 hours, Madison would have had three games in five days; now, it has three over six.
JMU plays this Saturday and Monday; Delaware doesn’t play again until Monday. But Ross didn’t mind the change, which he said was mutually agreed upon.
“It is what it is,” Ross said. “If the game’s not on TV and they’d like to go back to a normal format of Wednesday-Saturday, I don’t see anything wrong with it. I don’t know that I’d make a big deal of it. Some people were shocked that I agreed to move the game from Thursday to Wednesday, but I don’t care. It doesn’t matter if we played on Wednesday or Thursday; it’s still going to be a tough game for both teams and you’re going to have to do what you have to do.”