JMU roundup: Dukes accept CIT bid

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University’s men’s basketball team will make its 13th appearance in a postseason tournament as it has accepted an invitation to the Postseason Tournament and will play at USC Upstate on March 17 in Spartanburg, S.C.

The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start at the Hodge Center.

The Dukes enter the CIT with a 19-13 record and earned a share of the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title with a 12-6 conference record before exiting the CAA Championship with a quarterfinal loss to Hofstra, 74-57, on March 7 in Baltimore.

The Spartans are amidst their best Division I season in program history, amassing a 23-11 record and finishing third in the Atlantic Sun Conference with an 8-6 record. They upset second-seeded Florida Gulf Coast in the A-Sun semifinals before falling in the Atlantic Sun title game, 63-57, at North Florida on March 8.

This will be the first-ever meeting between the Dukes and Spartans. JMU has only played two games previously against A-Sun opponents and holds a 2-0 record with a win over Kennesaw State (82-69 in 2008-09) and Stetson (71-69 OT in 2011-12).

The Dukes will be making their second appearance in the CIT and first since the inaugural tournament in 2009 when they went 2-1, advancing to the semifinals before falling to former CAA foe and eventual champion Old Dominion. The Spartans will be making their third postseason appearance over the past four seasons, as they competed in both the 2012 and 2014 CIT tournaments, going a combined 1-2 in those years.

Women’s basketball

RICHMOND — James Madison women’s basketball earned three major awards and seven all-conference honors on Wednesday, as junior guard Precious Hall was named the 2015 Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year, Head Coach Kenny Brooks was named the CAA Coach of the Year and redshirt-senior center Lauren Okafor was honored with the Dean Ehlers Award.

Hall, the preseason Player of the Year as well, is the second consecutive Duke to earn the Player of the Year award and fifth overall under Brooks. Hall ranks 16th nationally in points per game (21.0) and has scored 610 points this season, which ranks sixth on the all-time JMU single-season scoring chart. She is 11th on the JMU career-scoring chart with 1,431 points, which makes her the CAA’s active career scoring leader.

Brooks earned his second straight Coach of the Year title after leading JMU to its second consecutive CAA regular season championship and 10th consecutive 24-plus win season. He became the all-time winningest coach in JMU women’s basketball history on Feb. 15 with a 94-64 win over Delaware for his 303rd victory. This season, the Dukes became just the third program in NCAA history to reach 1,000 program wins and spent time ranked in both the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today Coaches Poll.

As a Dean Ehlers award recipient, Okafor exemplified excellence both on and off the court during the 2014-15 regular season. She averaged a double-double, posting 12.7 points and 10 rebounds per contest, while adding 1.6 blocks per game. Her 46 blocked shots this season are tied for eighth-most in program history for a single season and her 291 rebounds are the ninth-highest single-season total in program history. Off the court, she is a psychology major concentrated on pre-med, an Arthur Ashe Scholar-Athlete and the recipient of the Le Ann Whitlock Memorial Scholarship. She is financial secretary of JMU’s Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority as well as vice president of the Association of Black Psychologists.

Hall and Okafor were both named to the All-CAA First Team, while junior point guard Angela Mickens earned a spot on the All-CAA Second Team and redshirt-junior guard Jazmon Gwathmey was placed on the All-CAA Third Team. Both Okafor and Mickens were named to the All-Defensive squad while Okafor rounded out the honors on the All-Academic team.

Mickens, a 2015 Lieberman Award candidate, is fourth nationally in assists per game (7.6) and ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.80). Her 221 assists-to-date this season are the second-most in JMU history, and she is just three assists shy of setting a JMU single-season record. She has added 7.8 points per game on her own and helped JMU score 779 points this season, good for an average contribution of 26.9 points per contest. She also leads the team in steals per game (2.2).

Gwathmey averaged 9.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.0 steals per game through the regular season. She shot 40.3 percent from the floor (104-of-258), the third-highest total amongst JMU players with at least 100 made field goals. She is already fourth on the all-time blocked shots list at JMU (121).

JMU heads to the 2015 CAA Championship Tournament at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md., as the top seed. The Dukes open play in the quarterfinals on Friday at noon, when they will face either eighth-seeded Towson or ninth-seeded College of Charleston.


RICHMOND — James Madison freshman Alyssa Buddle, who made her first career starts last week, was recognized as the Colonial Athletic Association co-Rookie of the Week, the league office announced Wednesday morning.

Buddle went 6-for-10 from the plate after appearing in all four games of the JMU Dukes Invitational (March 7-8). She hit her first two collegiate home runs, both three-run shots, and finished with seven RBIs while scoring two runs. For her efforts, she was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

She hit her first career home run as a pinch hitter in the fourth inning Saturday to put JMU ahead for good in a 10-4 win over St. John’s. The following day, she hit her second homer in as many days — the eventual game-winning hit — to give JMU a 7-1 lead in what would be a 10-5 triumph over Maryland. She recorded hits in all four games she appeared in on the weekend.

Following Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep at Winthrop, Buddle is batting .462 with a team-best .923 slugging percentage.

This is the second CAA Rookie of the Week nod this season for a JMU player as fellow freshman Megan Good was named the league’s top rookie on Feb. 17. JMU has racked up four weekly honors this season as Good was named CAA Pitcher of the Week on March 3 and junior Jailyn Ford garnered the same award back on Feb. 17.

Buddle shared the accolade with Elon’s Kiandra Mitchum, who went 3-1 in the circle last week with a 0.65 ERA in 21.2 innings pitched. Hofstra’s Caryn Bailey was named CAA Player of the Week while her teammate, Morgan Lashley, was tabbed Pitcher of the Week.

JMU heads to Orlando, Fla., to compete at the UCF Spring Fling Tournament on Friday. The Dukes face UIC, Fairfield, Monmouth, Butler and 20th-ranked UCF over the three-day event.

Women’s lacrosse

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Trailing by three goals with 22:44 to play, 15th-ranked James Madison women’s lacrosse finished the game on a 6-2 run to knock off No. 9 Penn State 13-12 on Wednesday afternoon at Penn State Lacrosse Field.

The win moves JMU to 6-1 and extends the Dukes’ winning streak to six games. The streak is tied for the second-longest winning streak since Head CoachShelley Klaes-Bawcombe took over the program in 2007. On five other occasions under Klaes-Bawcombe, JMU has won six games in a row, the most recent coming during the 2012 season. Penn State falls to 4-2 with the loss.

The Dukes are now 2-1 on the season against ranked opponents. JMU opened 2015 with a hard-fought 13-9 loss at No. 2 North Carolina and knocked off No. 14 Loyola (Md.) on Feb. 28 before topping Penn State.

Down 10-7 with less than 22 minutes to go, freshman Elena Romesburg scored her second goal in as many games to spur the 6-2 run with 21:28 to play.

After a goal from redshirt-sophomore Betsy Angel – who scored her team-leading 17th goal of the season – to make it 10-9 Penn State with 19:51, senior attacker Stephanie Finley knotted the game at 10-all with 16:21 remaining.

Following a goal from Tatum Coffey to make it 11-10 in favor of Penn State, junior midfielder Brooks Lawler knotted the game at 11-all with 4:53 to play. From there, JMU never looked back as senior midfielder Alison Curwin gave JMU a 12-11 lead with 3:16 to play.

With Penn State picking up a yellow card down the stretch in the final minutes, Finley notched what turned out to be a crucial insurance goal to make it 13-11 with 17 seconds to play. Penn State cut the lead to 13-12, but the goal came too late for the Nittany Lions with just four seconds remaining on the clock.

Five JMU players scored at least twice in the contest, with Finley leading the way on three goals and two draw controls. Curwin, Lawler, junior midfielder Jaci Gordon and sophomore midfielderTaylor Gress each notched two goals while Angel and Romesburg rounded out the scoring for the Dukes with one apiece. Redshirt-senior defender Kaci Starkloff and senior goalie Schylar Healyled the defensive effort, as Starkloff collected a team-high three ground balls while Healy made 11 saves in the cage to earn her 34th career win in purple and gold.

With its three-game road trip concluded, JMU returns home to host Rutgers on Saturday at 1 p.m. at University Park. Last season, Rutgers came away with an 8-7 victory over the Dukes in Piscataway, N.J. The loss came in the midst of a four-game losing streak after the Dukes had beat both Loyola and Penn State.

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