The Dukes are dancing: James Madison got a win in the CAA Tournament final against Northeastern, resisting a Huskies comeback run after taking a 20-point lead early.
Behind 26 points from A.J. Davis in front of a Richmond crowd that was cheering heavily for the Dukes, James Madison got out to a huge lead over Northeastern and held on for a 70-57 win to seal the CAA's auto-bid.
Joel Smith opened the game with a three for Northeastern and Reggie Spencer followed with a bucket to make it 5-3 Huskies, and then the faucet turned off. James Madison scored 15 straight, as part of a 19-1 run, a stretch where the Huskies went 12 minutes and 55 seconds of game time without hitting a field goal. Each missed shot -- and each of their eight turnovers -- was followed by a run-out by the Dukes, who pumped up the tempo. A.J. Davis had 17 points in the first half, while 6'6 Rayshawn Goins, the only forward in a four-guard lineup, was simply unstoppable inside for James Madison, who finished the first half with 13 points and 10 rebounds and ahead 40-18.
However, despite the 22-point lead, James Madison couldn't breathe easy: on Sunday, Northeastern had given up the first 13 points of the game and trailed 28-4 at one point before rallying back for a 69-67 win on a Jonathan Lee layup with three seconds to go.
Sure enough, the Huskies stormed back. After keeping pace with the Dukes, a stint of vicious full-court press combined with some unforced turnovers by the Dukes led to open layups for Northeastern and a 9-0 run cut the deficit to 51-43. That momentum died when Smith fouled out while contesting a James Madison three-pointer. That gave the Dukes a chance to earn points at the line and left the Huskies without their top scorer. Some dunks and monster blocks put the lead back to 15 in short notice, and from there JMU coasted in front of a partisan Richmond crowd.
The Dukes were the highest-seeded team to have to play in the quarterfinals of the seven-team field. Their first game was a relatively comfortable win over William & Mary, but they nearly didn't make it out of a semifinal matchup against Delaware. Andre Nation's game-winning attempt with 15 seconds to go missed but, after a Blue Hens rebound, James Madison forced a turnover and Devon Moore hit a pair of free throws for the 58-57 win.
The tournament trip is Matt Brady's first as head coach between four years at Marist and five at James Madison.
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