When James Madison’s women’s basketball team welcomes St. John’s to the Convocation Center, a solid Big East program such as the Red Storm will present the kind of early-season challenge Dukes coach Sean O’Regan enjoys.
But there is perhaps an even bigger obstacle for JMU when the ball is tipped 2 p.m. Sunday at the Convocation Center — moving on from Wednesday night’s heartbreaking loss against Maryland.
“I just know it’s going to be hard,” O’Regan said after his team failed to hang onto a 19-point fourth quarter lead against the eighth-ranked Terrapins. “They’re crushed. But that’s part of sports. We’ll get back on the horse. Including me.”
There was devastation across the board for the Dukes (2-1) after JMU’s final attempt from halfcourt rimmed out and Maryland escaped with a 70-68 victory. But James Madison wasn’t left with much time to dwell on the loss with St. John’s looming.
The Red Storm is 2-0 after double-digit victories against St. Bonaventure and Lafayette. The Johnnies got a boost just before the start of the season as freshman Leilani Correa was granted eligibility by the NCAA after originally signing with West Virginia before transferring to St. John’s in September.
Correa is averaging 13 points and four rebounds per game away named the Big East Freshman of the Week. She’s created quite a 1-2 punch with Qadashah Hoppie, a junior guard who is averaging 17.5 points per game.
Even in the aftermath of one of the most grueling losses the program has experienced, the Dukes knew their next game wasn’t going to be an easy one.
“That will definitely be a big game for us,” senior guard Kamiah Smalls said. “We’ve got a Big East team coming in here and if we get that on our record as a W, I think that will be really nice for us. I think we’re more than prepared for anything at this point. So we’re just going to do our scouting and worry about us.”
If there was a positive from Wednesday’s loss, it was that for more than three quarters the Dukes looked like a team capable of making noise on the national level. Their coach certainly expects them to be able to play well against anybody at this point.
“If I’m taking anything away from this, it’s that this is how special you can be,” O’Regan said. “My expectation is that you will be that.”