JMU roundup: Dukes fall in first round of CIT

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – USC Upstate rallied from an eight-point deficit late in the second half, utilizing a 9-0 run over the final three minutes to defeat James Madison University, 73-72, in the first round of the Postseason Tournament on Tuesday night at the Hodge Center.

The Spartans improved to 24-11 on the year and advance to the second round against an opponent to be determined Wednesday evening, while the Dukes ended the 2014-15 season with a 19-14 record.

Junior guard Ron Curry hit a 3-pointer with 3:08 left to play to put JMU ahead 72-64 but the Dukes would not score on their final five possessions, going 0-for-3 from the floor with two turnovers. The Spartans cut the deficit to five at 72-67 with 2:59 left when Fred Miller converted an old-fashioned 3-point play with the hoop and the harm.

After a JMU miss, Ty Greene, the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year who led all player with 26 points, was fouled on a three and made two of three from the line to cut it to 72-69 with 2:11 to play. Greene forced a steal and drove in for a layup with six seconds later to get Upstate to within a point.

On USC Upstate’s next time down the floor, Jacob Schulte was found underneath the basket all alone for the go-ahead layup with 1:06 left to give the hosts a 73-72 lead. JMU turned the ball over but Miller missed the front end of a one-and-one to give JMU one last shot to win the game. In the closing seconds, Curry drove through traffic and his leaning shot rolled off the rim and the horn sounded to give Upstate the win and become the first team this season to beat JMU when trailing inside five minutes to play.

Sophomore guard Jackson Kent scored a team-best 19 points on 7-for-14 shooting, including 5-for-9 from beyond the arc. Curry produced 14 points after knocking down four triples, as he added four assists and a game-high three steals. Freshman guard Joey McLean hit a career-best four 3-pointers on five attempts to finish with 12 points, while also dishing out a game- and career-high six assists.

Sophomore forward Yohanny Dalembert was one point shy of a double-double, finishing with nine points and a season-best 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass. The Dukes shot 45.2 percent from the floor and converted 51.9 percent from long range, matching their season-high total in made threes, with 14. Upstate did a great job keeping JMU off the free throw line, where it only went 2-for-3.

Aside from Greene’s game-high point total, which came on 9-for-18 shooting and 6-for-13 from range, three others recorded double figures. Miller scored 18 and ShunQuez Stephens had 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists while Josh Cuthbertson added 10 off the bench.

Upstate shot 47.4 percent for the game and 42.9 percent from deep, making 12 triples. The Spartans also held a 36-30 advantage on the boards. JMU scored 22 points off USCU’s 13 turnovers and had a 15-8 advantage on second-chance opportunities in a game which had eight ties and 12 lead changes.

Both teams found the bucket early and often in a fast-paced first half as Upstate took an early 14-13 lead in the opening five minutes. The Dukes answered with five straight points by Kent to give JMU an 18-14 lead with 12:53 remaining. The Spartans chipped away at the lead and went up 24-23 but back-to-back threes by McLeanand Kent gave the Dukes a 29-24 advantage, matching the largest lead of the half. USC Upstate narrowed the deficit to a single point by scoring five of six as the Dukes took a 34-33 lead into the locker room.

With the game tied at 44, a Dalembert layup sparked an 8-0 JMU run, which Kent and McLean both nailed long threes to give JMU its largest lead of the game at 52-44 with 12:11 left in the game. Down 54-47, Upstate answered with an 8-0 surge with a Greene three and a pair of baskets by Cuthbertson to give the home team a 55-54 lead with 8:26 remaining.

Knotted at 61, the Dukes would score eight straight points in 95 seconds, capped off by consecutive threes by McLean and Kent, to put the Dukes ahead 69-61 with 3:49 left. Teams traded triples as Curry’s trey with 3:08 left, which made it a 72-64 game would be the last points JMU would score in the season.

The Dukes, who have no player graduating, will have a pair of seniors in both Curry and guard Winston Grays next season, while junior transfer Devontae Morgan out of Butler will join the JMU backcourt. Also joining the program will be guard Kevin Roland out of Amelia Academy, Va., who signed back in the fall.

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