James Madison Dukes Thriving With Defense And Strong Freshmen Play
On Tuesday night, the James Madison Dukes earned a big road victory over the UNCW Seahawks in Wilmington, giving JMU a three-game winning streak. But the tough Colonial Athletic Association victory was not just won during the game’s 40 minutes – the Dukes had been working towards that moment during this entire season.
James Madison began the 2011-2012 season struggling through a tough non-conference schedule. But, the team hasn’t truly been completely healthy and playing together on the court until very recently.
“We started the season 1-5 without Andrey Semenov,” head coach Matt Brady explains. “I think he is the best shooter in the CAA. He came back, and we went 5-1. He comes back we went 6-1. He then goes out again and we lost our next two games.”
But, Brady doesn’t just praise Semenov. He also realizes and acknowledges how valuable this season’s freshman class has been to JMU’s recent success.
“It wasn’t my intention to start multiple freshmen,” Brady said. “But, they all have valuable skills that transfer to this level. We’ve been playing with as many as three freshmen on the court at times and they follow the game plan.”
James Madison’s also been playing exceptional defense. The Dukes lead the CAA in defensive points per possession in conference play this season. They have been allowing just 0.91 points per possession. Their success on that end of the floor might come from the defense-first philosophy Brady has tried to install.
“Our lineup will continue to change but the one constant has been our effort defensively and rebounding,” Brady said. “I think we have an athletic group with length on the perimeter. ”
UNCW clearly struggled with that depth on Monday.
“They’re a tough match-up for anybody,” Seahawks coach Buzz Peterson said. “That’s their second road victory [in conference]. They’re beginning to build some confidence.”
The Dukes will look to bring that confidence into the JMU Convocation Center when they host the Hofstra Pride on Thursday. Perhaps their hard work will continue to prove beneficial in that game as well.
Jake Fischer is the CAA Columnist for Rant Sports-NCAA Basketball. Make sure to follow Jake on Twitter @JakeLFischer.