JMU Gets First CAA Tourney Win Since 2013
JMU knocked off Drexel by the score of 80-70 in the opening round of the CAA tournament last night. Yes, the victory came on Pillow Fight Friday, and the Dukes have had a long, long season, but it’s still worth celebrating. For one thing, it’s a win in March Madness, and those are always fun. Perhaps more importantly, it’s JMU’s first CAA Tourney win since all the way back in the magical 2013 season.
It was also the first postseason win of the Lou Rowe era. Sort of. CAA refs proved they’re CAA refs again, hitting Rowe up with 2 first half technicals and tossing him. Rowe’s assistant, Byron Taylor, took the reigns and proved that he might be the best coach in America. That might be slight exaggeration, but something clicked with the Dukes after Rowe got tossed. Maybe the guys were inspired by Rowe getting fired up. Or maybe they reached a point where they just said, “screw it” and started playing loose. Whatever the case was, the Dukes that were on the court in the second half played a completely different game, than they did in the opening 20 minutes.
And what about the first half? It was ugly. If you weren’t around for the days of CAA Rockfights, this was a reasonable facsimile. We won’t belabor the point, but both teams played some of the worst basketball we’ve seen all year. And the refs! If you told us they were getting paid by the whistle, we would have believed you. Sloppy passing, poor shot selection, and fouls every other play, did not make for a beautiful game. The teams combined for 18 field goals and 19 turnovers. It was that kind of night.
Thankfully basketball games have two halves though. And the second half was everything the first half was not for JMU. Every Duke on the floor was playing with energy. They were moving the ball and knocking down shots from everywhere. After struggling to only 25 points in the opening stanza, JMU managed 55 points after the break. Yes, 55 points. From a team that came into the game averaging only 63 per game. From down 8 at the half, to a double-digit win thanks to a 32-7 run. It was some Bryan Schor type offense.
Jackson Kent lead the way with 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting. He was one of 5 Dukes who reached double figures. As a team, JMU shot 62% and 67% from long range in the second half. It really was beautiful.
Year one under Coach Rowe has been tough. We’ve relied on humor to cope. Other fans have simply tuned out. It’s hard to blame them. But last night’s game is a reminder of why we still watch. Yeah, it’s only one win and the season very well might end today. But fans who tuned in last night were rewarded with a great second half performance. More importantly, it was a chance for Jackson Kent, the Serb, Paulius Satkus, Ivan Lukic, and Tom Vodanovich to get the first CAA tourney win of their careers. Hopefully it’s not the last.