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HARRISONBURG - Guards Devon Saddler and Davon Usher combined for 46 points and spearheaded a key 9-0 run in the last six minutes as Delaware charged past James Madison 78-74 in a Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball game Saturday afternoon at the JMU Convocation Center.
UD won its fourth in a row to improve to 10-7 overall and 2-0 in the CAA. JMU dropped its second straight after winning four of five to fall to 6-11 overall and 1-2 in the CAA.
Saddler came off the bench to lead all players with 25 points on 7-for-13 shooting overall and 9-for-10 at the foul line. Usher added 21 points and five rebounds while going 5-for-10 from the arc. Guard Jarvis Threatt finished with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Sophomore guard Andre Nation led five Dukes in double figures with 22 points in his season home debut. Sophomore guards Charles Cooke and Ron Curry each had 14 points with Cooke adding seven boards and Curry posting five boards and four assists.
Sophomore forward Taylor Bessick achieved his first career double-double with 11 points, 12 boards and a career-high four blocks. Graduate forward Andrey Semenov added 11 points and seven rebounds for his fourth straight game in double figures.
JMU led overall field goal percentage 44-33 and had its most rebounds since Dec. 17, 2009 at Gardner-Webb with a 49-40 advantage. However, Delaware was able to overcome shooting and rebounding deficits by making nine three-pointers compared to 4-for-20 for JMU while also going to the free throw line 35 times with 25 converted (71 percent) compared to 16-for-24 for JMU.
Madison led 65-62 with six minutes remaining when Delaware started its charge to pull ahead. A layup by Saddler and two Usher free throws gave Delaware the lead for good at 66-65. Usher's three with 3:38 on the clock provided separation and two Threatt free throws capped the critical 9-0 run.
Nation snapped the run with two free throws with 1:40 to go to make it 71-69, but Threatt hit 1-of-2 at the line, Cooke missed a three and Saddler's two free throws with 26.5 seconds left made it 74-69.
The Dukes had one final push with Curry leading the way. He hit two free throws with 19.5 seconds left to make it 74-71, and after another 1-for-2 showing by Threatt at the line, Curry converted a three-point play to make it 75-74 with 11.7 seconds remaining.
The Dukes sent Threatt to the line again with 10.6 on the clock with the junior going 1-for-2 for the third straight time. Trailing 77-74 with 7.7 seconds left after timeouts by both teams, Curry drove the left side of the lane in heavy traffic but lost control as he went up. The turnover gave Delaware the chance to seal the victory at the line for the 78-74 win.
JMU held the lead or was tied for the final nine and a half minutes of the first half and first six and a half minutes of the second half before UD made its second-half push. Delaware played its best basketball at the end of each half, closing the first half on a 9-2 run and achieving the 9-0 run in the final six minutes of the second half.
The opening portion of the first half was back-and-forth, featuring five lead changes and four ties. JMU took its third lead on a fancy layup and three-point play by Cooke at the 10-minute mark to make it 23-22. That started a 16-4 run for the Dukes, who got three buckets from Nation and two putbacks from Bessick as part of the charge as they went up 36-26 with under five minutes to play.
Davon Usher turned the tied with a three-pointer for Delaware. With the score at 40-31, the Blue Hens claimed the momentum for the final two and a half minutes, using a 9-2 spurt to close to 42-40 at the break. Threatt's runner at the buzzer cut the deficit to two.
Semenov and Nation each had 11 first-half points while Cooke added nine. Saddler had 12 for Delaware and Threatt contributed nine. JMU held a 28-19 lead in rebounds in the first half and shot 49 percent compared to 34 percent for Delaware. However, the Blue Hens stuck around with more opportunities at the free throw line and 5-for-11 three-point shooting.
JMU plays back-to-back home games for the first time this season with a 7 p.m. CAA game Wednesday against Northeastern.