CAA women’s tournament notebook: JMU confident in offense for semifinals

JMU's Kamiah Smalls changes direction as she drives past UNCW's Jasmine Steele during first half action of the CAA quarter finals held at JMU Thursday evening. Rich Cooley/Daily

HARRISONBURG — James Madison University head women’s basketball coach Sean O’Regan isn’t concerned about his team’s shooting struggles on Thursday night. In fact he believes it’s a positive.

The Dukes shot just 32.8 percent (19-for-58) from the field in their 52-27 victory over UNC-Wilmington in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament quarterfinals. O’Regan said he doesn’t believe his team will struggle like that again today when they play third-seeded Drexel in the semifinals at 7 p.m.

“I feel good,” O’Regan said. “If we had scored 85 points and shot it really well, then I’d be like we’re probably not going to do that (Friday). I think it’s the opposite now. I think we’ll catch fire at some point.”

JMU was able to play 10 players in the victory, which could also help them in the semifinals and possible final. To win the CAA tourney title, teams have to play at least three games in three days and O’Regan said keeping the players fresh certainly helps.

“It could be really beneficial for us,” O’Regan said. “What I’ve told them is I could play them for all 40 minutes, and it doesn’t matter. No one is going to feel sorry for them. (They have to) get some rest and get some fluids in their system, and we got two more games to win.”

JMU's Hailee Barron drives through the lane for a shot during first half action Thursday evening during the CAA quarter finals at JMU.Rich Cooley/Daily

Third-seeded Drexel (21-9) beat sixth-seeded Northeastern, 68-50, in Thursday’s final quarterfinal at JMU’s Convocation Center.

JMU beat Drexel, 54-47 and 74-64, in their two regular-season meetings.

INSIDE FORCE: Top-seeded Elon University defeated ninth-seeded Hofstra, 78-50, in the first quarterfinal on Thursday.

The Phoenix outscored the Pride, 40-14, in the paint.

“That’s something that we want to dominate in is the paint points,” Elon head coach Charlotte Smith said. “That’s getting the ball inside or penetrating, not settling for contested jump shots and putting pressure on the defense to have to defend. We have two amazing post players down there inside. There’s no reason why we should not get the ball inside when you have Malaya Johnson, who leads the CAA in field goal percentage and (Jenifer Rhodes) whose tops in field goal percentage as well. Those are high percentage shots and we definitely want to take advantage of those.”

Elon (25-6) overcame a slow start and pulled away in the second quarter. The Phoenix led 39-20 at the half. Essence Baucom led the Phoenix with 15 points. The Phoenix had four players in double figures. Rhodes had 14 points, Lauren Brown had 11 and Shay Burnett had 10.

The Pride (13-18) were led by Aleana Leon with 22 points.

The Phoenix will play William & Mary in today’s semifinals at 4:30 p.m.

With five seniors on the squad, the Phoenix are confident they have the experience to handle the tournament environment.

“I think us as veterans understand the seriousness of the moment,” Baucom said. “At this point it’s win or go home. And we know that we don’t want to be on the road heading back to Elon. So we just try to step up and kind of rally the younger kids and just get it done.”

TRIBE TRIFECTA: No. 4 seed William & Mary knocked off fifth-seeded Delaware, 59-44, on Thursday. The Tribe went 8-for-17 (47.1 percent) from 3-point range.

William & Mary coach Ed Swanson said his team was getting good looks from long range.

“We just took good shots and when we take great shots in rhythm we make them,” Swanson said. “…I didn’t think we took any forced 3’s. So when we do that we’re pretty good shooters.”

Marlena Tremba led the way for the Tribe (20-10) with 23 points, including five 3-pointers. Jenna Green added 12 points and Latrice Hunter had 11 for the Tribe.

Delaware (16-14) was led by Erika Brown with 15 points.

It is the first time since 2001 that William & Mary is into the semifinals of the CAA tournament.

“It’s a great feeling,” Tremba said. “The last three years we haven’t won a game (in the tournament). It’s awesome to move onto the semifinals, and I think it’s great for the program.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com