Men’s Basketball Jackhammers JMU

By Michael Petillo

BOSTON — The Northeastern Huskies defended home court on Thursday night, defeating James Madison 77–57 to secure a first-round bye in next week’s CAA tournament. Graduate transfer Guilien Smith led the Huskies with 20 points and Shaquille Walters dropped in 15 points to go along with six assists.

Northeastern (15–14, 9–8 CAA) jumped out to an early lead thanks to three early three-pointers by Smith and used a balanced scoring effort to stretch the advantage to 20. The second half was more even, but JMU never mounted a significant run.

The contributions of Smith and Walters were particularly valuable to due to the absence of starting point guard Tyson Walker, who is day-to-day after injuring his shoulder during Saturday’s game against Drexel. In his stead, Smith stepped into the starting lineup and played a season-high 36 minutes, nailing five threes and playing his signature lockdown defense.

“It felt great to get that first one to go and from there I was just feeling it,” Smith said.

Walters assumed most of the ballhandling duties with Walker sidelined. He comfortably handled JMU’s pressure and got Northeastern into their halfcourt offense throughout the game. 

 “He had to be the primary ball-handler out there tonight,” Northeastern head coach Bill Coen said of Walters. “He had really great court composure and was able to quarterback the offense.”

In addition to overcoming Walker’s injury, the play of Walters and Smith allowed Northeastern to secure a win despite an uncharacteristic off night for Jordan Roland. Normally the Huskies’ leading scorer, Roland managed only 11 points amid stifling JMU defense.

The win gives Northeastern a two-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s regular season finale against Towson, who knocked off CAA-leading Hofstra on Thursday night. Coverage begins at 3:45 PM EST with Milton Posner and Alex Bensley on the call.

CAA Preview: James Madison University Dukes

Last season: 14–19 (6–12, eighth place), lost in CAA quarterfinal

Head coach: Louis Rowe (third season)

CAA Preseason Poll Finish: Fourth

Losses

  • G Stuckey Mosley
  • G Matthew Urbach
  • F Greg Jones
  • F Develle Phillips
  • F Cameron Smith

Additions

  • G Zyon Dobbs
  • G Quinn Richey
  • G Jayvis Harvey
  • F Dalton Jefferson
  • F Julien Wooden
  • F Michael Christmas

By Adam Doucette

The JMU Dukes will look to rebound from their lackluster, eighth-place 2018–19. It won’t be easy after graduating second-leading scorer Stuckey Mosley, but JMU returns the other four starters and has added some depth with new recruits.

One of those recruits is Michael Christmas, a three-star prospect according to 247sports. He is ranked as the 14th best prospect from the state of Virginia for 2019.

Junior guards Matt Lewis and Darius Banks look to build on fantastic sophomore seasons. Lewis averaged 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists per game, making the All-CAA third team in the process. He will likely become the offensive centerpiece. Banks averaged 12 points and five assists per game, and his 56 steals were second only to Defensive Player of the Year Desure Buie. Banks also made a mind-boggling 49 percent of his threes last year.

Sophomore point guard Deshon Parker will look to become a leader after earning a starting spot last season and averaging six points, two rebounds, and three assists per game. JMU also returns 6’8” junior forward Zach Jacobs, who paced the team defensively with 26 blocks.

JMU will face one of the nation’s toughest teams early on. In just their second regular season game, the Dukes will travel to Charlottesville to play the reigning national champion Virginia Cavaliers. JMU has faced Virginia ten times in the past; they’ve lost all ten.

The Dukes head into the season under the direction of head coach Louis Rowe. Rowe played two years at JMU, was an assistant coach for five, and has been head coach for the last two. In his first season at the helm, the team finished last in the CAA; last year they finished eighth. The Dukes have not earned a top five seed in the CAA tournament since they were third in 2015–16.

Bottom line: JMU has hung out at the bottom of the CAA standings for the better part of the last three seasons. Digging themselves out won’t be easy, especially with the loss of leading scorer Mosley. But with an added year of experience for coach Louis Rowe, the maturing of Lewis, Banks, and Parker, and the addition of some talented recruits, the Dukes should jump in the standings.