Given how much production James Madison lost from last season’s NCAA tournament team and the fact that Andre Nation won’t be available until the Dukes begin CAA play, it comes as no surprise that they’ve struggled offensively this season. Charles Cooke (15.6 ppg, 4.0 rgp, 2.1 apg), Ron Curry (11.9, 4.5, 2.7) and Andre Semenov (11.3, 4.8) are all averaging double digits, but from an efficiency standpoint the 2013-14 season has been a struggle for Matt Brady’s bunch.
JMU entered Saturday’s game against Hampton ranked 261st in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy, and if not for their ability to get to the foul line (48th in free throw rate) it can be argued that the Dukes would be even worse than their 3-9 record. JMU once again struggled offensively on Saturday, scoring 0.85 points per possession and turning the ball over on nearly 28% of their possessions.
But they still shot better from the field than the Pirates, who made just 32% of their shots from the field and 24% (6-for-25) from beyond the arc. The end result: a much-needed 55-49 victory in the first game of the Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic, with Curry leading all scorers with 19 points and being the most polished offensive player on the floor. Curry shot 7-for-10 from the field, and in a game that saw James Madison (4-9) turn the ball over 18 times (Cooke was responsible for six) the sophomore guard didn’t commit one.
Cooke (1-for-7, five points) and Semenov (3-for-10, eight points) struggled offensively, but the 14 points and 21 rebounds supplied by the combination of Taylor Bessick (eight points, ten rebounds) and Tom Vodanovich (six points, 11 rebounds) helped James Madison account for two of their top three players having off afternoons. Brian Darden led three Hampton (5-7) players in double figures with 14 points.
Will much change when Nation returns to the rotation next month? Probably not, but he is a key component for James Madison and he’ll help them as the Dukes move towards the all-important conference tournament in March. The good news, and the difference, on Saturday was the fact that they still have Ron Curry.