JMU roundup: Dukes fall to Towson in football finale

Daily Staff Reports – sports@nvdaily.com

TOWSON, Md. -The James Madison football team battled throughout but could not overcome a few key plays against them and lost at No. 5/7 Towson, 28-17, Nov. 23. With the season finale loss, the Dukes ended at 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the Colonial Athletic Association, while the Tigers end the regular season at 10-2 and 6-2 in the league.

Sophomore quarterback Michael Birdsong had more than 300 yards of total offense , rushing for a career-high 136 yards on 26 carries. The 136 yards were the third most for a Duke this season. Birdsong was also 20-for-39 for 170 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Redshirt-senior linebacker Stephon Robertson finished with 11 tackles, including one tackle for loss, to finish with 141 tackes this season and 445 for his career.

For Towson, All-American running back Terrance West was limited to 100 yards but had three scores on 22 carries, more than 60 yards below his season average. Quarterback Peter Athens was 21-for-30 for 171 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

JMU got on the board first on its second drive, marching 73 yards in nine plays. On fourth-and-15 at the Towson 29, Birdsong found wide receiver Anthony Rose on a streak route down the middle for a touchdown. Kicker Cameron Starke hit the point after attempts and the Dukes led 7-0 with 6:24 to go in the first quarter.

On the ensuing possession, Towson looked to be stopped at the JMU 28 but a roughing the passer penalty gave the Tigers an extension to their drive. The hosts converted it, as running back Terrance West broke a tackle, bounced outside and went in from seven yards out and the game was tied at seven with 1:47 to go in the first quarter.

The two teams exchanged interceptions with Towson getting the second one at the JMU 33. West took it in from six yards out and the Tigers led 14-7 with 5:40 to play in the first half.

After a bad snap on a JMU fourth down gave the Tigers the ball at the JMU 45, Towson got one last score in the closing seconds of the half. Quarterback Peter Athens scrambled out of pressure and found Connor Frazier in the open and he went in for the 35-yard touchdown to make it 21-7 at the halftime break.

The Dukes got on the board in the second half with their opening drive, going 33 yards in 10 plays before the drive halted at the Towson 4. Starke came in and connected from 21 yards out to make it 21-10 Towson with 6:20 to play in the third quarter.

After a failed field goal attempt, the Dukes forced a Towson 3-and-out. Redshirt-senior Dae’Quan Scott caught the punt at the Towson 46, picked up a pair of key blocks and scooted into the end zone for his second punt return touchdown of the season. Starke connected again on the PAT and the lead was down to four at 21-17 late in the third quarter.

The final score of the game came early in the fourth quarter as West got in from six yards out again with just under 12 minutes to play for the final tally.

Overall the Dukes outgained the Tigers, 332-282, including 162 yards of rushing to 111. However nine penalties for 95 yards, including several at key times in the game, stymied JMU’s efforts.

Men’s basketball
VALPARAISO, Ind. – Valparaiso used a 14-0 first-half run to grab momentum as part of an overall 36-6 scoring advantage spanning the halves to push past James Madison 81-49 on Saturday afternoon at the Athletics Recreation Center.

Valpo improved to 3-3 overall while JMU fell to 2-4 after the first meeting between the programs. The Dukes were playing for the third time in four games against a Horizon League opponent, falling to 0-3 against the league.

Sophomore Charles Cooke had 14 points to go with four rebounds, two assists and a career-best four steals. Sophomore forward Taylor Bessick also tallied 14 points while freshman guard Jackson Kent added 11.

The Crusaders had four players between 12 and 16 points, led by reserve Jordan Coleman’s 16 points, four assists and two steals. Alec Peters and LaVonte Dority each had 15 points with Dority adding five assists and three steals. Lexus Williams contributed 12 points and four steals.

The Dukes, playing without injured starters Ron Curry and Andrey Semenov got out to a hot start in the game, grabbing a 10-8 lead by the first media timeout thanks to six points from Kent and four from Bessick. Madison further built the advantage to 18-12 when things began to unravel.

Buoyed by Coleman and Dority, the Crusaders embarked on a 14-0 run to turn the tide. Coleman began the run with a three and a jumper, which were followed by consecutive threes by Dority. Coleman added a three-point play to cap the run for a 26-18 Valpo lead.

Freshman Tom Vodanovich finally halted the push with a pair of free throws for JMU’s first points since his free throws over five minutes earlier. Valpo continued to build its margin to a high of 13 points, 35-22, at the half on a tip-in by Bueye.

The Crusaders kept the momentum going in the second period, using a 13-4 start to push the score to 48-24 with less than five minutes expired, marking a 36-6 scoring barrage. JMU got no closer than 19 points the rest of the game.

After missing 19 free throws in their previous contest, JMU went a season-best 15-for-16 against Valpo (94 percent). The Crusaders were 14-for-16 to make the teams a combined 29-for-32 (91 percent).

Valparaiso shot 58 percent from the floor, including 16-for-25 in the second half, and 45 percent from the arc (9-for-20). JMU was 38 percent from the field and 2-for-14 (14 percent) from three-point territory.

Valpo led in rebounding 32-17, led bench points 27-4 and limited JMU to four assists, its fewest in over two seasons.

Both teams mixed up starting lineups for the first time this season with a total of six freshmen among the 10 players on the court at tip. Kent and Ivan Lukic made their first career starts along with Cooke, Vodanovich and Bessick.

JMU continues its current eight-game road swing on Wednesday with a 7 p.m. game at Winthrop.

Swimming and diving
ATLANTA, Ga. – The James Madison swimming and diving team won two swimming events and had two divers qualify for the finals as it sits in fifth after two days at the Georgia Tech Invitational in Atlanta, Ga., Saturday.

JMU has accumulated 463 points through 14 events to hold fifth out of nine teams in the three-day event. Tennessee continues to lead with 741.5 points, followed by Florida Gulf Coast (681.5) in second, Georgia Tech (647.5) in third and Vanderbilt (490.5) in fourth. Trailing the fifth-place Dukes is Miami (282.5) in sixth, Florida Atlantic (166) in seventh, Clemson (89.5) in eighth and Charleston (9) in ninth.

JMU started the evening’s finals session by setting a school record in the 200-yard medley relay to earn its first event win of the weekend. Madison used a team of senior Shannon Dubay, juniors Sin Hye Won and Susanne Gingher and sophomore Kacy Edsall that sped to the wall in a time of 1:40.26 to break the previous school record by 0.15 seconds.

Won picked up JMU’s other event win on the day, outracing the field in the 100-yard breaststroke. The 2013 NCAA Championship participant turned in a NCAA “B” cut time in the event, touching the wall at 1:01.24.

The Dukes picked up points from two divers on the three-meter board as redshirt freshman Taryn McLaughlin and freshman Olivia Lehman both qualified for the event finals. McLaughlin led the way, placing fourth with a score of 298.60 while Lehman finished in 10th with 204.50 points.

Other top finishers for Madison include, Holmgaard, Dubay, junior Aimee Hooper, sophomore Amanda Presgraves and sophomore Stephanie Clarke. Presgraves joined Won in the finals of the 100-yard breaststroke, placing 10th with a career-best time of 1:05.10. Dubay finished first in the “B” finals of the 100 breast, claiming 11th overall by timing a 1:04.34.

Holmgaard and Hooper finished 11th and 12th, respectively in the 400-yard individual medley. Holmgaard reached the wall at 4:20.93 while Hooper turned in a career-best time of 4:27.24. Clarked finished 12th in the 100-yard backstroke completing the event in 56.69 seconds.

The Dukes concluded the day by placing 10th in the 800-yard freestyle relay. Holmgaard and Hooper teamed with sophomores Cameron Martin and Carli Molano to touch the wall at 7:24.14. It was the third-fastest time in school history in the event.

The Georgia Tech Invitational concludes on Sunday, Nov. 24 with preliminaries in the morning and the finals set for the afternoon.

Cross country
BRONX, N.Y. – The James Madison cross country squad posted a second-place team finish out of nine teams at the 2013 Eastern College Athletic Conference championships on Saturday morning. The Dukes tallied 78 team points and an average time of 18:47.54 in the 5,000-meter race.

Sophomore Jenna Flickinger notched the top finish of the day for JMU in fourth place with a time of 18:21.3. Freshman Tessa Mundell was just two and a half seconds behind her in sixth place (18:23.8). The pair scored four and six points, respectively, for the Dukes’ team total.

With a 19th-place finish, freshman Meghan Malloy earned 19 team points after completing the race in 18:53.3. Freshman Lillie Brown posted a time of 19:01.8 for a 21st-place finish (21 pts).

Junior Rachel Hagen finished in 28th place with a time of 19:17.5, rounding out the team-scored finishes. Sophomore Kathleen Stewart completed the day for the Dukes with a time of 19:37.3 for a 40th-place finish.

Georgetown won the team title with 29 points behind five top-10 individual finishes. George Mason’s Bethany Sachtleben won the individual title with a time of 17:24.7. Fellow Colonial Athletic Association-member Delaware finished in fourth place with 112 points.

The Dukes concluded the 2013 season with one first-place team title (Towson Invitational), two second-place team finishes (CAAs, ECACs) and a third-place team finish (Penn State Nationals). The distance runners now look ahead to the 2014 track & field season, which begins Jan. 9 at the Navy Winter Invitational.