JMU women win own invitational

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

HARRISONBURG — Kirby Burkholder set the tone, and James Madison University’s women’s basketball team didn’t look back.

The JMU senior guard started off the game strong and helped lead the Dukes to a 94-50 win over Norfolk State on Monday afternoon in the final of the JMU Invitational at the Convocation Center.

Burkholder hit her first three shots, including two 3-pointers, to help give JMU a quick 11-0 lead.

“I guess I was just feeling it,” said Burkholder, who was named Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week on Monday. “My teammates were doing a good job of finding me, and I was pretty open. I was just taking what they gave me.”

Burkholder, who was named tournament MVP, hit another 3-pointer with 13:19 left in the first half and the Dukes had a 20-2 edge. That would be as close as Norfolk State (5-7) would get the rest of the game.

JMU (10-3) built a 47-17 halftime lead and dominated throughout. JMU coach Kenny Brooks said he was pleased with the way his players stayed focused throughout the contest.

“We came out and made a conscious effort to not only get out to a good start, but to sustain it,” Brooks said. “Come out play with an energy, play with a focus throughout the game. It was very typical, we got off to a quick start, and we could have sputtered as the game was going on, but we didn’t.”

Burkholder led the way for the Dukes with 22 points and five rebounds. Lauren Okafor had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Jazmon Gwathmey had 10 points and eight rebounds for the Dukes. Precious Hall added 13 points and Toia Giggetts had 12 for JMU.

The Dukes out-rebounded Norfolk State, 54-30, and had a 42-20 advantage in the paint.
It was a good game for the Dukes headed into a showdown with the University of North Carolina. The Dukes play at the Associated Press’ No. 10-ranked Tar Heels on Thursday.

JMU has played a tough schedule this season, which has included UCLA, Mississippi State, St. John’s and Vanderbilt. The players are looking forward to yet another challenge.

“We’re definitely excited,” Burkholder said. “It’s the next game, our next opponent. We’re expecting to go in and play a good game against them, and we want to come out on top. It’s a chance to play a big name school, so we’re excited.”

UNC is without head coach Sylvia Hatchell, who is battling leukemia, but the Tar Heels haven’t missed a beat and have a 11-2 record.

Brooks said it will also be nice to play at Carmichael Arena.

“It’s going to be fun going down to that environment,” Brooks said. “We’re playing in the house that Michael Jordan played in. That’s always going to be fun. But, at the same time we’re going to be going down there to win a basketball game. That’s not slighting UNC, that’s just how much confidence we have. We’re a veteran basketball team.

“These kids have been in different types of arenas. Every time we step in an arena, we expect to win. And if you don’t have that mentality, then you shouldn’t play.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd