By Tommy Keeler Jr.
HARRISONBURG -- JMU women's basketball coach Kenny Brooks wasn't sure if Kirby Burkholder was going to play against Delaware on Sunday, but luckily for the Dukes she not only played but had a career day.
Burkholder scored a career-high 33 points to help lift the Dukes to a 87-51 win over the Blue Hens.
Burkholder twisted her ankle badly recently, and had Brooks a little worried about her status.
"I was very concerned," Brooks said. "Kudos to our trainer Erin Cash. There was no classes this week so they were doing double and even triple rehab sessions this week to get her ready. Once [Burkholder] got out there and the adrenaline got going I knew she was going to be all right. Even an 80 percent Kirby [Burkholder] I thought was going to be able to help us."
The win snapped Delaware's 44-game wining streak in the Colonial Athletic Conference.
Burkholder played a huge role as she went 10-for-18 from the field, including 7-for-12 from 3-point range.
"I guess I was just feeling it," Burkholder said. "We had a long break. I just tried to relax and play my game. My teammates found me, and I had open looks and I knocked them down today."
The game was close at the half, with the Dukes holding a slim 27-24 lead.
JMU (11-4, 1-0 CAA) came out strong in the second half. The Dukes used a 10-2 run to start the half to pull away for good.
Burkholder had two 3-pointers during the run, the last of which gave JMU a 37-26 lead with 17:44 remaining.
"Basically we just wanted to come out and keep playing our game with intensity," Burkholder said of the second half. "We felt good at halftime. We were missing some easy shots. And I think everyone came out and stepped it up. Every single person on our team came out in the second half and just played with a lot of intensity and stepped it up in the second half."
The Dukes held at least a nine-point lead the rest of the way.
The loss spoiled the homecoming of sorts for Delaware sophomore guard and Millbrook grad Courtni Green. She finished the game with four points, five rebounds and two assists.
"It was nice having friends and family come, but it was just another game," Green said.
Delaware coach Tina Martin said the loss was not unexpected with such a young squad, made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores.
"We got a lot of growing to do," Martin said. "I've said this team is a work in progress. What I'll need to see after this is how my team will react for our next game and going forward, because this group does have talent. Today we just came up in the second half and hung our heads. We really did, and that happens sometimes with young teams."
With several players in foul trouble, or struggling from the field, Burkholder carried the Dukes in the first half.
The senior guard had 16 of JMU's 27 first-half points. Burkholder was 4-for-10 from the field, including 3-for-6 from beyond the arc.
Burkholder helped the Dukes build a 16-9 edge with 10:08 left in the first half as she had nine points.
The Blue Hens (10-4, 2-1 CAA) responded with a 11-7 run that cut the lead to 23-20 on a basket by Jade Clark with four minutes left in the half.
The Dukes extended the lead to 27-21 on a basket by Newman, but the Blue Hens scored the last three points of the half.
The Blue Hens were led by Erika Brown with 12 points and nine rebounds. Kelsey Buchanan added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Burkholder had five rebounds to go with her points. Newman finished with eight points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks for the Dukes. Toia Giggetts and Precious Hall each had 16 for JMU.
The Dukes were very motivated to end the Blue Hens' streak.
"I think all of us feel they have something that's ours," Newman said of Delaware being the defending champs. "And we wanted to come out and prove a point. I think we did that."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd