There was a sneaky good game on the mid-major slate Monday night when state rivals James Madison and Radford clashed in western Virginia.
James Madison came into the game with a 4-3 mark and have been a bit inconsistent since beating Richmond on opening night. The Dukes have been in every game they've played this season but were striving for some consistency after losing to Oral Roberts and Tennessee-Martin at home on back-to-back nights. Coming off a win at Marshall, JMU wanted to get a little momentum to close November and head into a December, a month that features six straight games in Harrisonburg.
Radford has had a pretty wild start to the season knocking off Georgetown and Penn State, losing to VCU and Siena, and struggling for victories against Prairie View A&M and non-Division I Catawba. Obviously Mike Jones' Highlanders have the talent to win but they've been very up and down this season to a degree. The Highlanders wanted some revenge against the Dukes after losing at the buzzer last season thanks to a Ron Curry three.
JMU came out in the first half looking as if they were going to dominate the Highlanders without injured big man Brandon Holcomb. The Dukes took a 38-26 halftime lead and expanded that out to a 21 point lead just two minutes into the second half. The 9-0 surge from JMU to open the half forced a Highlanders timeout which finally seemed to wake up the team.
Radford would chip away little by little when Cameron Jones hit a jumper off a missed free throw by Kion Brown to tie the game at 63 with 1:13 to play. Joey McClean then took over for the Dukes nailing a big corner three and later converting two free throws to expand JMU's lead to 69-65 with 12 seconds remaining.
The final 12 seconds were about as weird as you're going to get. JMU let Rashun Davis sprint down the court for an easy layup taking 6 seconds off the clock. Jackson Kent then split his free throws for JMU to give the Dukes a three point lead. JMU smartly fouled Davis with two seconds left that triggered review number one as Davis hurled a late three-quarters court shot. The foul was deemed on the floor and Davis went to the line for two free throws but needing three points.
Davis made his first attempt and then purposely missed his second attempt which forced a melee in the corner as the final horn sounded. The refs once again went to the monitor and deemed Radford should have possession of the ball with 0.4 seconds left. The Highlanders tossed the ball in to a wide open Sterling Christy who badly missed a wide open three and potential game winner.
While Radford had a valiant comeback the stat that will stick out like a sore thumb is this loss is the Highlanders terrible performance from the free throw line, where they went 19-for-32. Radford's fullcourt pressure in the second half got them back into the game but their performance from the charity stripe kept them from winning.
Shakir Brown and McClean were the stories for the Dukes. Brown finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists on the night, while McClean was clutch and posted 13 coming off the bench. The Dukes now begin their long homestand against Western Michigan on Thursday.
Most of Radford's production came from do-it-all guard Rashun Davis who finished with 20 points, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds, and a block. Davis is putting together a season that will have him mentioned among the best in the Big South at this point. The Highlanders will have an important rest of the week with two conference games on tap when Liberty visits Thursday and they travel to reigning champ Coastal Carolina on Sunday.