James Madison hasn’t played in Harrisonburg since Nov. 9, and won’t return to the Atlantic Union Bank Center for a game until Dec. 2. But in the weeks between the Dukes will have played six games away from home, with potential to build some excitement surrounding the program.
“I think this trip is going to be fun, and eye opening for us,” JMU guard Takal Molson said. At a team high 14.6 points per game, Molson is one of five Dukes averaging double figures. “We’re going to find out a lot about each other. We’re going to go through some adversity on this trip. I think it’s something we need for the future.”
JMU sits at 4-1 heading into three games in Savannah, Ga. The Dukes crushed its first four opponents by an average of 41.5 points. That includes a 35-point road victory at Buffalo, which has solid wins against Colgate and George Mason, and a 26-point road win against a Howard team that beat Buffalo.
The Dukes were also reasonably competitive at No. 1 North Carolina — JMU had an opportunity to make it a two possession game past the midway point of the second half — despite a terrible shooting performance.
“I think the little things stood out that we didn’t do today,” Molson said after the UNC loss. “I think after we go back and watch film after that it’s something we can go back and easily correct.”
The road trip concludes with the Hostilo Community Classic in Savannah, where JMU will take on South Dakota State and Valparaiso. But first the Dukes face Coastal Georgia Friday at 11 a.m. in a game added to the schedule shortly before the season after Nicholls State dropped out of the Hostillo event.
The NAIA squad is just 1-6, but earlier this season trailed perennial Sun Belt power Georgia State by only six points with less than five minutes to go.
The opportunity is there for JMU to come home with a gaudy record and notable status in national rankings such as KenPom.com, which helps inform the NCAA Tournament selection committee at the end of the season. The Dukes began the week No. 80 on KenPom.
But after scorching the nets in the first four games, JMU has to improve on its shooting performance after the loss to UNC. The Dukes shot 34.8 percent from the floor and 53 percent at the free throw line in that one.
“We weren’t ourselves,” JMU coach Mark Byington said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well. It’s a learning experience for us. It’s a game in November and we want to keep building up and getting better, and I think we will.”
The first opportunity to improve comes early on Friday with the Dukes facing Coastal Georgia at 11 a.m. JMU follows that up Saturday at noon against guard Noah Freidel’s former team, South Dakota State, before wrapping up the Savannah event Sunday at noon against Valparaiso.