JMU roundup: Dukes win women’s basketball tourney

Daily Staff Reports – sports@nvdaily.com

QUEENS, N.Y. – Senior guard Kirby Burkholder scored 18 points on her way to claiming Most Valuable Player honors as the James Madison women’s basketball team beat St. John’s 64-51 in the final game of the Chartwells Holiday Classic at Carnesecca Arena on Sunday.

The Dukes won their third straight to improve to 8-2 on the season and 4-0 in true road games. St. John’s lost its third straight to fall to 5-4 on the year.

Burkholder added six rebounds and two steals to her game-high 18 points for the day in 38 minutes. She was joined on the All-Tournament team by redshirt junior center Lauren Okafor who scored eight points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked five shots against the Red Storm and redshirt junior guard Jazmon Gwathmey who had 10 points, six blocks and two steals.

Junior forward Toia Giggetts scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds on Sunday while sophomore guard Angela Mickens had seven points, seven rebounds and two assists.

The Red Storm was led by 15 points off the bench by Eugeneia McPherson. The All-Tournament guard hit on three second-half 3-pointers and had two assists and a rebound. Guard Aliyyah Handford chipped in 12 points and six rebounds, but turned the ball over seven times in 39 minutes. Forward Amber Thompson contributed eight points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals.

After leading by as many as 17 points at the 18:30 mark of the second half, the Dukes had to hold off a furious St. John’s rally. The Red Storm cut the lead to as little as two points on a jumper by forward Jade Walker with 7:33 left to play. Madison responded with a 7-0 run, including five straight points by Giggetts. A three-point play by Handford trimmed the advantage back down to three points, but the Dukes were good on all six free throw attempts down the stretch to keep the Red Storm at bay.

Sunday was the first game all season JMU did not outrebound its opponents as each team finished with 37 boards. The Dukes shot 43.4 percent from the field and finished with 12 blocks and six steal while St. John’s shot 33.3 percent and had seven blocks and six steals. JMU enjoyed the advantage at the free throw line as it hit on 16 of 21 attempts for a 76.2 percentage while its opponent shot just 52.2 percent (12-23) from the charity stripe.

JMU held St. John’s to just two points over the final 5:41 of the first half, including holding the Red Storm scoreless for the final 4:25. Okafor paced an early 6-0 run for Madison, scoring three straight layups to put her team in front 15-9. St. John’s scored four of the next six points to pull within four at 17-13, but Burkholder drained a 3-pointer from straight away to start a 12-point run to close the half for JMU. Burkholder had a hand in the first seven points, hitting her three and a layup as well as generating a steal and assisting on a layup by Mickens.

The Dukes defense was ferocious in the first stanza. They generated 13 turnovers and blocked eight shots, including a career-high five from Gwathmey. The sophomore guard also had two steals while Burkholder grabbed a team-best six rebounds.

The 13 points were the fewest JMU had allowed in a half since limiting Maine to 10 points in the second half of an 88-34 win on Dec. 28, 2012.

Gwathmey finished with a game-high six blocks, the most since Crystal Ross had six against Old Dominion on Feb. 1, 2012.

JMU returns home to the Convocation Center this week to put an end to its six-game road trip. The Dukes take on Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18.

Men’s basketball

HIGH POINT, N.C. – Sophomore guard Charles Cooke’s career high of 25 points helped James Madison charge past High Point with a 56-29 advantage in the final 22 minutes for an 84-69 victory on Saturday evening at the Millis Center.

JMU snapped a six-game losing skid to improve to 3-8 overall while HPU dropped to 3-5 with its third straight loss.

JMU trailed 40-28 with just over two minutes remaining in the first half when the Dukes closed on a 7-0 spurt. Madison carried that momentum into the second half for an overall 15-2 run, taking its first lead on a Taylor Bessick three-point play to make it 43-42.

High Point reclaimed the lead just one time on the next basket before an Andrey Semenov put JMU in front to stay.

The Dukes gradually stretched the lead possession by possession, reaching double figures at 64-54 with eight minutes to go. High Point had one final push to cut it to six at 64-58 but threes by Cooke and freshman guard Jackson Kent quickly extended the lead to 74-62, and the Dukes maintained a double-figure advantage the rest of the way.

Cooke continued his season-long progression with his 10th straight game in double figures. His last four games have featured 19, 22, 20 and 25 points. He shot 8-for-15, including 3-for-6 from the arc, against the Panthers while adding five rebounds, two steals, a block and two assists.

JMU had five players in double figures to achieve its season high of 84 points. Semenov had 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists to leave him three points shy of 1,000. Bessick contributed 11 points, two blocks and five boards while sophomore guard Ron Curry tallied 10 points, four rebounds and three assists. Playing in his hometown, Kent posted 10 points, five rebounds and a career-high five assists.

In addition to the 84 points, JMU set season highs for field goal percentage (55.1), three-point percentage (47.6) and assists (13). The Dukes were 42-for-182 (23.1 percent) from the arc all season before going 10-for-21 against the Panthers. Madison had not connected on more than six threes in a game before knocking down 10 in the game. JMU also led on the glass 36-29.

Season leading scorer John Brown had 17 points and four steals for the Panthers but was limited to 29 minutes by foul trouble, including his fourth foul on a technical with 12 minutes to go and JMU ahead by just four.

Lorenzo Cuginin added 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. Derrell Edwards and Devante Wallace each tallied 10 points with Wallace adding six boards.

After shooting 50 percent in the first half, the Panthers were limited to 31 percent in the second half, including a 1-for-11 (9 percent) showing from the arc after 6-for-10 in the first period.

JMU fell behind early from the opening tip at 9-4. Back-to-back threes from the Panthers made it 15-8 and ignited an 11-0 run to make it 20-8 with 12 minutes remaining. However, trailing 22-13, the Dukes embarked upon a 9-0 run with a pair of threes from Curry sandwiched around a basket from Bessick. A free throw from Lukic knotted the score for the first time since the tip.

However, High Point turned the tide quickly, hitting a trio of three-pointers as part of a 16-4 push to move ahead 40-28 in the closing minutes of the period. Baskets by Semenov and Bessick were followed by a three at the buzzer by Cooke to make it a five-point difference at the break at 40-35.

Cooke led all scorers with 12 points in the half while Curry added eight. Cugini added 10 for High Point. The 40 points for HPU were the most in the first half for any JMU opponent this season. The 52 percent shooting was the best of the first half this season for JMU.

JMU returns to the area just 15 miles away on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. game at UNCG.