An Encouraging Loss?
Yes, I said it. Getting to see the Dukes in person I actually came away hopeful about the only thing that really matters in this one-bid CAA year, JMU’s chances in Richmond in March. While this game included a typical and completely expected 2nd half fade from a working lead to an 11-point loss, I have to admit I wasn’t down on the Dukes for much in particular and I sort of see what Coach Brady is working towards with this bunch. I’m sure everyone will crush this idea and continue piling on Brady, but it’s just not worth it in the CAA right now.
First, hideous second-half free throw shooting, more than occasional unauthorized shots by the wrong guys, and a stupid fourth foul on Devon Moore destroyed the Dukes chances in a game chock-full of fouls. And this squad has to learn how to win, how to play with a lead, how to play on the road, and how to play under pressure after a couple of forgettable campaigns. (Here’s a hint, slow down and get touches for Rayshawn Goins on every single important trip). But the Dukes were the better team in terms of athleticism, depth, and versatility tonight even if they haven’t put it all together and aren’t as disciplined (or well-coached?) as they need to be at key times. Mason is basically one GREAT player, Sherrod Wright, and a bunch of guys. They play better when the Greek whitey is on the floor, but overall GMCC actually struggled with JMU’s length and defensive intensity. The Dukes compete, they get back on defense, and Devon Moore, until that fourth foul, was a real neutralizer on Wright.
Overall, this decent loss on the road to a top team said more about JMU’s legitimacy in the CAA than any of the wins over an unspeakably bad ODU team, UNCW, and a banged-up Drexel team. In this league this year, it’s just not worth getting worked up over anything in the regular season as long as your team is healthy and motivated come tourney time, but just a couple more quick notes from getting to see them in person:
1) The freshman are really good. Bessick is learning, Nation has real quickness and was gritting out a tough defensive effort though he was in obvious pain at times, and Curry could be a true leader for this squad. When GMCC made the run to push the lead out, he was positive the whole time with sometimes frustrated teammates, picking guys up, diving for balls, and encouraging even the vets like Goins and Moore. He may not be the most talented of the freshman, but when you see what he does “off-camera” it’s obvious why he’s earned p.t. and Brady’s trust.
2) Love the way Brady is playing the full rotation of 10-11 guys. You could argue it’s because no one’s earned their minutes by standing out, but if you’re building for the end of the season it makes sense. Plus, with Semenov out, and AJ out to lunch most of the time, the Dukes have few options to stretch the floor and are going to be in a lot of sloppy games in this already sloppy conference. Having tons of length and fouls to use in Bessick, Hood, and even Swindle makes JMU a tough matchup for anyone. GMCC had a big man foul out early and another play most of the second with 4 fouls. Good stuff.