‘W’ For JMU
Dukes Cooke YSU, 69-68
Posted: November 21, 2012
PITTSBURGH – The James Madison basketball team trailed for all but 45 seconds of its game against Youngstown State on Tuesday. But somehow, when the clock reached zero, the Dukes found themselves 69-68 winners after a wacky finish resulted in their first victory of the season.
Freshman Charles Cooke made two free throws to put the Dukes ahead with eight seconds left, and JMU’s defense forced Kendrick Perry into an airball from the baseline at the buzzer — capping a six-point, final-minute comeback.
Asked if he had any nerves heading into the biggest shots of his young college career, Cooke, who scored a career-best 11 points, was poised — just as he was when sinking his pair of swishes.
“Not at all,” he said. “I was confident.”
James Madison (1-2) trailed by six with one minute left, just before Cooke cut the deficit to four with a jump shot. Youngstown’s Blake Allen missed two free throws, and the spread was down to two after JMU freshman Andre Nation made a layup with 29 seconds remaining.
The Dukes quickly fouled Allen again, but this time the senior guard made both free throws, putting the Penguins (3-2) back on top by four. JMU senior Alioune Diouf drilled a 3-pointer from the wing to make it 68-67 in favor of Youngstown, and here’s where craziness ensued.
JMU tried to foul Penguins leading scorer Damian Eargle, but he escaped the grasp of Nation around midcourt, and kept progressing toward the hoop. Eargle attempted a somewhat-contested layup in transition with 18 seconds left and he missed it. Shawn Amiker missed a put-back attempt, and Dukes freshman Ron Curry corralled the ball. He passed it up court to Diouf, who had a two-on-one situation with Cooke on the wing. Diouf found Cooke, who got fouled, and made the Penguins pay for their mistakes.
“We made some very, very bad decisions,” Youngtown coach Jerry Slocum said. “Tough loss. We gave that win away.”
Eargle scored 17 points and eclipsed 1,000 for his career, but the senior was left to regret his questionable decision.
“I wish I could take it back, but I can’t,” he said. “… I should have just pulled it out.”
Rayshawn Goins led the Dukes in scoring and rebounding for the third time in as many games, finishing with 21 points and seven boards. Diouf added 15 and six, as part of an undersized but offensively effective front line.
JMU avoided its first 0-3 start since 1987-88 — the final season under coach John Thurston, who was replaced by Tom McCorry at mid-season during a 10-18 campaign.
For current coach Matt Brady and the Dukes, Tuesday’s victory over a team that could challenge for a Horizon League title this year was huge in terms of psyche, moving forward.
“There’s no doubt that coming out of here with a win is a big deal,” Brady said. “They’re a good basketball team, they’re gonna win a lot of games, they’ve got really good players. But our guys fought. It didn’t look like we were going to win the game, but our guys didn’t give up and they fought until the very end. And we played great defense on the very last possession. Phenomenal defense on the very last possession.”
Madison plays its final game of the Progressive Legends Classic today at 4:30 p.m. against North Dakota State. The Dukes lost 90-88 in overtime to host Duquesne on Monday in their first game of the three-day sub-regional.
JMU looked sluggish early Tuesday, trailing 32-25 at halftime. Brady took a timeout 59 seconds into the game, after Youngstown State made its first two shots to take a 5-0 lead.
“I think it was just energy and lack of communication,” Diouf said. “We weren’t communicating and we didn’t have a lot of energy going out there, so the results show for themselves.”
The Dukes ratcheted up their intensity immediately out of the break, and took their first lead of the game, 36-35, on a Diouf power move with 16:37 to play. That lead lasted just a possession, and JMU didn’t get another advantage until Cooke hit a jumper with 8:08 to play. Again, the Dukes’ edge was ephemeral, as Youngstown State responded quickly and appeared it would take the lead for good.
But the Dukes, whose bench outscored Youngstown State 21-3, eked it out with thanks to some Penguins follies and an unlikely young hero.
“How about that?” Brady said, commenting on Cooke’s clutch foul shots. “I don’t think either ball hit the rim. He stepped up and did a great job. He’s improved as a shooter, he’s certainly confident and he made some shots tonight. And we needed every one of them, obviously.”
Diouf 6-12 1-1 15, Goins 8-12 5-9 21, Davis 1-6 2-2 4, Curry 2-6 0-0 5, Moore 1-4 1-2 3, Hood 0-1 0-0 0, Cooke 3-6 4-4 11, Nation 4-8 2-2 10, Bessick 0-0 0-0 0, Swindle 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-55 15-20 69.
Belin 3-8 2-2 10, Eargle 5-7 7-10 17, Allen 4-12 2-4 14, Perry 5-13 0-0 12, Amiker 4-7 4-6 12, Cole 0-2 1-2 1, Chojnacki 0-0 0-0 0, Hain 1-1 0-0 2, Weber 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-50 16-24 68.
Halftime—Youngstown St. 32-25. 3-Point Goals—James Madison 4-17 (Diouf 2-3, Curry 1-3, Cooke 1-3, Moore 0-1, Nation 0-3, Davis 0-4), Youngstown St. 8-23 (Allen 4-11, Belin 2-5, Perry 2-6, Cole 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—James Madison 32 (Goins 7), Youngstown St. 30 (Belin 12). Assists—James Madison 15 (Moore 5), Youngstown St. 16 (Perry 5). Total Fouls—James Madison 16, Youngstown St. 17. A—NA.