Feb 27 / Rob

This Story About Former Duke Abdulai Jalloh Should Live Forever

jmubasketballteamOne of the only good things about JMU’s loss to UNCW was the fact that our favorite CAA hoops writer from the past, Brian Mull, came out of semi-retirement to cover the game. Mull covered UNCW and the CAA at large back in the day for the Wilmington Star News and he was great. After UNCW got out to an insurmountable lead the other night, he mentioned via Twitter that he wasn’t sure “Abdulai Jalloh, two girls and a plate of chicken can save JMU now.” Given the state of mind we were in at the time, it went right over our heads. But then Mull followed up with an explanation and oh what an explanation it is. It goes like this:

After setting the Trask Coliseum scoring record with 37 points in a 99-85 UNCW victory, Jalloh came into the interview room to talk with JMU beat writer Dustin Dopiriak. Only, he didn’t come alone, nor did he leave emptyhanded. By his side were two young local ladies he’d recently befriended. While conducting the interview, he talked to the ladies about a return trip to Wilmington and also piled high on a plate leftovers from the pregame media buffet.

That’s amazing. Jalloh was a heck of a player and we knew he loved to score buckets. He also apparently liked to take the all the food and women too. If we retired jerseys here on JMUSB, Jalloh’s might be the first one hoisted the rafters.

Feb 25 / Rob

Dukes Crash Back to Earth in Wilmington

JMU went on the road to face UNCW in a first place showdown tonight. It went, poorly. The Dukes entered the game in a four way tie for first place and a chance to capture the regular season crown with two wins and help. Instead, they got blown out 74-54 and now need to beat Hofstra in the regular season finale to avoid falling to fifth.

There isn’t much to say about the game. UNCW led wire to wire. It was never really close. The Seahawks burst out of the gate ready to play. They were energetic, spreading the ball, getting good looks and crashing the boards. To say JMU came out sluggish would be an understatement. The Dukes opened the game looking completely overwhelmed by the UNCW full court press. Seemingly before JMU even broke a sweat, UNCW had raced out to a 19-3 lead. The lead was stretched to as many as 18 points before a late run by JMU got them to within 11 at the half. UNCW rattled off 7 straight after the break and it that was all she wrote. It was never much of a game after that.

The Positives

Ron Curry had 23 points. He hit 5 of 7 from long range. Yohanny Dalembert had 11 points on 5 of 10 shooting. It’s clear those two guys can score consistently against CAA competition. The fact that they were both able to score in the first half despite getting virtually nothing from their teammates speaks volumes. And Cabarkapa reached double figures again, with 10 points. Most of them came from the line or during garbage time. Still though, this is a guy who didn’t even get off the bench in 12 of JMU’s first 15 games. Now he’s reached double figures in 3 of the last 4. He’s like some sort of mid-major college hoops Serbian Jeremy Lin.

Everything Else

Nothing else worked tonight. JMU’s starters other than Curry and YoYo gave the Dukes virtually zippy. Jackson Kent scored 5 points. Joey Mclean and Tom Vodonavich both went scoreless. The trio combined to attempt only 8 shots. It’s neither necessary nor expected that those guys score in double figures night in and night out. They’ve got to be aggressive enough to force the issue and try to create their own shot or at least attempt open jumpers though. At times tonight they treated the ball like a hot potato, rapidly unloading it for YoYo or Curry before even attempting to draw a defender or look at the basket.

The Dukes also really struggled with ball control, turning it over 15 times for the game. It was just a downright ugly night for the offense. JMU managed only .83 points per possession. That’s the Dukes worst  mark in CAA play this season. And it’s exactly what happens when a team is sloppy with the ball and 3/5 of the lineup stands around watching.

This was a discouraging loss, but it’s not the end of the world. Yes, it means JMU will end the regular season winless against the CAA’s top 3 teams. Crazy as it might sound, we still think this team is performing above expectations and on the right track. As it was pointed out to us on Twitter tonight, roster turnover has forced some guys who are probably suited to be bit players into prominent roles. As long as it doesn’t kill their confidence, that should pay dividends next year and the year after. Plus, unlike JMU, the top contenders have all demonstrated that they can play down to the level of competition some nights. There are going to be upsets in Baltimore. All that means is that the tourney is completely up for grabs. The Dukes aren’t going to be on anyone’s list of favorites, but they’re one of about 6 teams that could cut down the nets if they get hot for a weekend.

Feb 22 / Rob

Dukes Knock Off CofC to Stay Tied at the Top

JMU extended its winning streak to five games by beating College of Charleston 68-61 in the Convo. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday night, but was pushed back to Sunday afternoon due to the snow. The Dukes made it worth the wait.

Yohanny Dalembert lead JMU with a career high 21 points to go along with a game high 8 boards. Jackson Kent regained his shooting touch and pitched in with 10 points. Winston Grays, who is emerging as the Dukes’ glue guy, had a great game and finished with 13 points. Ironically enough, the only player on JMU’s roster who attempted more than 10 field goals, didn’t hit any of them. Ron Curry finished a disappointing 0-11 from the field. He still managed to contribute, giving Matt Brady 38 turnover free minutes.

The win keeps JMU in a logjam at the top of the CAA tied for first with UNCW, Northeastern, and William & Mary. The Dukes are now 18-11 overall and 11-5 in the CAA. CofC sits at 8-21 and 3-13. We’re in the homestretch and JMU actually has a chance to head to Baltimore with the top seed. Of course if this season has shown us anything, it’s that virtually any team could get hot and earn the league’s bid regardless of seed. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look back at today’s win. Here are three quick thoughts on the game. read more…

Feb 19 / Rob

Cabarkapa Sparks Dukes Past Drexel

JMU used some hot second half shooting to hold off Drexel in the Convo last night. Drexel hit four three pointers in a row in the closing minutes to make it close, but the Dukes held on for an 82-78 victory. The win clinched a regular season sweep of the Dragons and moved JMU to 17-11 overall and 10-5 in the CAA. Drexel dropped to 10-16 and 8-7 in league play. Ron Curry paced the Dukes with 25 points, but the real story was the balanced scoring. Four JMU players scored in double figures, including Dimitri Cabarkapa. Known simply as “The Serb”, he came off the bench to score a career high 12 points. Tom Vodonavich poured in 18 and YoYo managed 10 points, despite only attempting 4 field goals. Winston Grays only scored 4 points, but he pulled down a career best 8 boards. It was a solid game overall. Here are three quick thoughts on the win.

Cabarkapa Stepping Up

We have no idea where this guy’s game came from. After being virtually glued to the bench for much of his JMU career, Cabarkapa has gotten some minutes the past few weeks. And man has he made the most of them. Last night he played with confidence and hit a number of big shots, including two threes. Ron Curry has gotten much of the press during the Dukes’ recent hot streak. That’s completely justified, but the real story might be the role players like Cabarkapa who’ve elevated their games.

Is Ron Curry Elite?

Yes, we’re stealing the dumbest NFL-QB cliche question and applying to Curry to make a point. The truth is though that Curry has elevated his game and probably exceeding the expectations most JMU fans had for him. He’s shooting the ball incredibly well from both the field and the charity stripe. Last night he attempted only 9 field goals, but still managed 25 points thanks to knocking down 12 of 14 from the line. His great play is throwing him into the All CAA discussion.

There’s Hot Shooting, and Then There’s What We Saw in the Second Half

Much like we’ve seen with baseball, advanced stats have crept into the world of basketball. Concepts like offensive efficiency and tempo adjusted stats have changed the way we look at the game. But some nights the good old fashioned stats do the job. Like last night, when JMU went a ridiculous 15 for 18 from the field in the second half. That’s good for 83.3% if you do the math. And that is quite simply amazing. Sure it’s unsustainable and the Dukes aren’t going to shoot like that every night. But they’ve been shooting the ball much better. They’ve been better than 40% from long range during every game of the 4 game win streak and in 7 of their last 9. We can’t expect 83% shooting from the field, but we can expect the Dukes to shoot with decent accuracy from here on out.

Feb 16 / Rob

The Hits Keep On Coming, Moreland, Stallings, and Ford Suspended Indefinitely

Moreland TDToday has been slightly more eventful for JMU football than your typical off season Monday in February. After the news broke this morning that Defensive Coordinator Brandon Staley had accepted a job at John Carroll University, head coach Everett Withers announced that Jimmy Moreland, Rhakeen Stallings, and K.J. Ford have been suspended indefinitely.

A statement was released saying that the players violated the football program’s core values. No other details have been made available at this time. All three players were on the defensive side of the ball though. Make of that what you will.

Jimmy Moreland was a fan favorite last season, his first with the Dukes. He was a spark on special teams, blocking five kicks. He also returned two picks for touchdowns and earned the nickname (from us at least) Jimmy Effin’ Moreland. Stallings played lineback and racked up 80 tackles. Ford was highly recruited coming out of high school, but redshirted last season.

Obviously, it’s unfair to speculate on what happened at this point. We have virtually nothing to go off of. With that being said, it’s also a little troubling and a heck of a night cap on a weird day. First the defensive coordinator leaves for a job in D-III, then the head coach announces that three defensive players, two of which who were standouts, have been suspended. Hopefully the two are not connected and this is nothing more than a relatively harmless violation of team rules. We’ve seen how the “talented player who gets tripped up by off the court mistakes” movie plays out in hoops. We’d liked to avoid watching the sequel for football.

Feb 16 / Rob

And Now the Defensive Coordinator is Reportedly Gone Too

I was just enjoying a lazy President’s Day morning about to make some coffee when I glanced at Twitter and saw this. I’m stumped. Last year’s co-offensive coordinators Drew Mehringer and Brad Davis jumping to Houston and East Carolina respectively made sense. This one is a bit more perplexing. While I don’t share the opinion, some folks have speculated that the recent departures were about frustration over the lack of an FBS move. Staley leaving to take a job at the D-III level sort of goes against that theory though. John Carroll is a powerful program, but this still looks like a move down on paper. Maybe Staley has other priorities that are motivating him to move on. Or maybe he’s been nudged out the door. In any case, we wish him well. Now we get to see if Withers can work his magic and replace all three coordinators.

Feb 12 / Rob

ECU Poaches JMU Co-Offensive Coordinator Brad Davis

dcVPfIbFJMU had a prolific offense last season under the direction of Co-Offensive Coordinators Drew Mehringer and Brad Davis. As you’d expect, their success brought a great deal of attention. A few months ago the University of Houston hired Mehringer and now East Carolina University has hired Davis. According to Sports Illustrated’s Thayer Evans, Davis agreed to become ECU’s offensive line coach and run game coordinator. While sharing coordinator duties with Mehringer at JMU, Davis was responsible for coaching the offensive line. Under Davis the Dukes averaged 4.8 yards a carry and averaged over 200 rushing yards a game. It’s easy to understand why ECU wanted him.

There are two ways to look this. The first is to freak out and panic. JMU had a prolific offense last year and now both of the guys who were in charge of it are gone. That’s sort of frightening in some ways and JMU is definitely left with a void to fill.

The second way to look at this is to see it as a sign that Coach Withers has a knack for identifying young, up and coming coaches. There is plenty of turnover in the world of college football coaching. While consistency can be nice, it’s actually better to have other schools coming after your assistants than to have them completely ignored. If nobody every wanted to snag any of JMU’s assistants, that would be a far bigger problem.

However, that doesn’t mean we’re happy to see Davis or Mehringer go. Sure, we’re happy for them and wish them well. This isn’t a Houston or ECU blog though. It’s a JMU blog, so we’re more concerned with who replaces them. Withers replaced Mehringer with Brett Elliot. In much the same way Mehringer earned his stripes as a graduate assistant on a BCS coaching staff, Elliot was a graduate assistant of an SEC staff at Mississippi State. Davis brought more experience to the table having served as the offensive line coach at Portland State prior to joining the JMU program. If the pattern holds, we can probably expect Withers to bring in someone with a few more years under his belt than Elliot. Whoever gets the job will have big shoes to fill. But he’ll also have Vad Lee and some serious talent to work with.

Feb 11 / Rob

Huge Run Propels JMU Over Delaware

The JMU Dukes picked up their fifth CAA road win of the season last night by defeating the Delaware Blue Hens 67-54. It was a close game throughout much of the first half until the Dukes closed with a 11-0 run to take a 32-27 halftime lead. They came storming out of the gates after the break and broke the game open with a 11-3 run to go up 43-30. They never relinquished the lead from that point on and cruised home for the big road win.

JMU is now 15-11 overall and 8-5 in CAA play. Surprisingly, 5 of those CAA wins have come on the road. After winning the CAA last season, Delaware dropped to 6-18 and 5-8 in the league. Here are three quick thoughts on the win.

Bizarro YoYo and Bizarro Kent

This might be remembered as the game that Yohanny Dalembert hit a three pointer and Jackson Kent threw down a dunk. Those were two things we didn’t think we’d see in the same game, or ever actually. While YoYo shooting long range jumpers and Kent dunking aren’t things we expected, they both were huge plays that helped get the Dukes going. Kent’s dunk came on a breakaway after a loose ball sort of popped into his hands. It was good for 2 of his 9 points in on the night and pulled JMU to back within 2 after Delaware had briefly jumped out to a first half lead. YoYo’s three with the shot clock winding down sparked the 11-0 run that propelled JMU to take a lead it never gave back.

Balanced Effort

The Dukes came together for a solid defensive and rebounding effort. JMU managed to hold UD below 40% from the field and out-rebounded the Blue Hens 36-30. YoYo lead the Dukes with 14 points and secured another double-double by pulling down 10 boards. Joey McLean, coming off being honored as one of the CAA Rookies of the Week, scored 13 points in his second straight start. Five other Dukes scored in the game. Nobody was outstanding, but everyone contributed. Even guys who don’t always do much offensively dropped in some big buckets. Tom Vodonavich took some ill advised jumpers and missed an awkward attempt in the post in the first half. He got back to what he does best after the break and banged away down low for a few crucial garbage type buckets though. He finished with 9 points. Ron Curry saw his double-digit scoring streak come to an end, but it really didn’t matter. The whole team stepped up and got the job done.

CAA Road Warriors

As mentioned above, this was JMU’s fifth CAA road win of the season. With only 2 road games remaining, that means the Dukes have clinched a winning road record in CAA play. That’s pretty impressive and not something many would have predicted heading into the season. This team has definitely been up and down and has been frustratingly bad at its low points. However, it has largely taken care of business against the league’s weaker teams. That’s obviously good. We’re still looking for them to knock off one of the true contenders in W&M, UNCW, or Northeastern. For now though at least they’re beating the teams they should. And the fact that they’re doing it on the road is a nice bonus.

Feb 9 / jmusport

Guest Post: Post Signing Day JMU Recruiting Wrap Up

JMU NSDHi everyone, Happy Post National Signing Day!  Hope everyone has enjoyed the last couple of days as much as I have!  JMU almost batted a 100% on our verbal commitments, and I am confident that most of us feel a sense of accomplishment and success with what our staff has done over the last year.  Although we ended up losing WR James Brunson and OL Austin Cannon at the end, we lost them to, essentially,  “bigger schools”.  Brunson has been waiting for that “high-profile” FBS offer and ended up at FAU (which I guess is better than JMU?).  From what I understand, Cannon’s scholarship was cut in half and VT, supposedly, didn’t sign all the offensive linemen that they wanted to, which opened up a spot for the Richmond native.  With 21 signees and a few high-potential walk-ons, the new era now has a true hand in the talent pool on the roster, and the JMU coaches have the players that they can mold properly to play out their scheme.  Today, I thought we’d take an in-depth look at exactly how each signee fits into what our coaching staff wants to accomplish at JMU. read more…

Feb 8 / Rob

Ron Curry Buzzer Beater Drops Towson

JMU is Ron Curry’s team. He left no doubt about that in Saturday’s win over Towson. The junior point guard dropped a career high 27 points, none more important than the 18 foot jumper to secure a 63-61 win as time expired. Curry hit 5 threes and knocked down 7 of 15 overall. He also made 8 of 10 from the stripe. We all knew Curry was talented, but his scoring ability has been a bit of a revelation. Yohanny Dalembert had another effective game, contributing 14 points, 8 boards, 2 blocks, and a steal. The ceiling continues to rise with YoYo. Freshman Joey McLean drew his first collegiate start and made the most of the opportunity. His scored a career high 14 points on a night JMU badly needed someone to step up and help YoYo and Curry carry the load. The win keeps JMU in the thick of things at 14-11 overall and 7-5 in the CAA. Towson fell to 11-14 and 4-8 in league play. Here are a few quick thoughts on the exciting win.

Thumbs Up

Ron Curry – This one is obvious. Curry was just stellar. He took control of the ball, and thus the game, down the stretch when Towson stormed back. His leadership helped the Dukes stay calm and sneak out of Towson with a much needed win.

McLean Stepping Up – The freshman made Head Coach Matt Brady look pretty smart for starting him. McLean’s effort was one of the lone bright spots in JMU’s loss to UNCW. He played with the same energy, but was even more effective against Towson. He knocked down two huge threes and took care of the basketball. Just a solid effort in a game it was needed.

Vodonavich’s Gritty Game – The sophomore might not have the prettiest game or the deepest skill set on the roster. He can be very effective when he bangs around down low and generally makes a nuisance of himself though. That’s exactly what he did yesterday, playing physical defense, grabbing rebounds, and getting under the Tigers’ skin. He also managed to set his teammates up, finishing with 3 assists for good measure.

YoYo’s Passing – Regular readers know we love YoYo. Despite the fact that he’s still learning the game of basketball, he’s developed a decent array of post moves. He’s got the potential to play All CAA caliber basketball before his time at JMU ends. What might be overlooked though is his passing and court vision. He put both on display yesterday with a couple of nifty looks to set up good shots for others.

Thumbs Down

Rebounding, or Lack Thereof – The Dukes won, so we don’t have much to complain about. However, they get beat 43-29 on the boards. The fact that they still managed to win in spite of that is pretty amazing. It’s not sustainable though. JMU simply has to rebound the basketball better down the stretch.

Jackson Kent’s Apparent Lack of Confidence – We don’t know what’s going on in Jackson’s head, but it sure seems like he lost his confidence on the court yesterday. Which is a shame, because he’s a good ballplayer. His game has been up and down all season. Maybe we’re reading too much into things, but it sure looks like on nights when he plays with enthusiasm and stays aggressive, he knocks down buckets. On other nights he seems to play with hesitation, his game suffers. He’s a good player with a ton of potential. We just hope he realizes it.