WILLIAMSBURG ——Although he sat in the William and Mary media room as the winning head coach, James Madison's Matt Brady made an unapologetic assessment of his Dukes.
"I think — to be honest with you — they clearly outplayed us," Brady said of the Tribe. "For the first 30 minutes, they made shots and played great defense."
But that 10-minute window was all the Dukes needed to dash the Tribe's hopes of winning their first CAA game of the season.
Fueled by two late 3-pointers as W&M reversed course and went ice-cold from beyond the arch in the second half, JMU rallied to win 84-79 at Kaplan Arena on Saturday night.
Though a hot-shooting first half and a scorching run to open the second provided the Tribe (4-11, 0-4 CAA) with a game-high 10-point lead with 16 minutes remaining, JMU responded by winning the physical battles in the paint down the stretch, outrebounding W&M 42-22.
Meanwhile, the Dukes' (13-3, 3-1 CAA) defense did what it couldn't do in the first half — neutralize W&M from 3-point territory.
The Tribe drained five treys in a 17-6 first-half run that saw them turn a 14-11 deficit into a 28-20 lead. Forward JohnMark Ludwick (15 points) was the hot hand during the outburst, draining a trio of 3's.
But after that prolific stretch W&M sank just one more 3-pointer, which came off the hands of Ludwick to give the Tribe a 68-64 lead with 7:45 left in the contest.
"For whatever reason, we haven't shot the ball well in the second half — and I don't think it's related to conditioning because we play a lot of people," said W&M coach Tony Shaver. "The 3's a great equalizer for us, and we aren't shooting it with any great consistency."
Throughout, JMU kept the ball out of Tribe sharpshooter Quinn McDowell's hands beyond the arch. While McDowell finished with 13 points, he went just 0-for-2 from distance.
Conversely, the 3-ball played a huge role in JMU remaining within striking distance of the Tribe throughout the second half. The Dukes responded to an 8-2 W&M surge to open the second half with a 7-0 run capped by a 3-pointer from Humpty Hitchens that drew JMU to within 3 points just moments after it trailed by 10.
From there, the Dukes stayed within 7 points as the Tribe failed to find a game-sealing run.
After Marcus Kitts, who led the Tribe with 16 points, hit one of two free throws to give W&M a 78-72 lead with 3:12 remaining, JMU's Andrey Semenov hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead in half. Dukes guard Ben Loius then stole the ball from McDowell to set up a corner 3 by Hitchens to tie the game at 78-78.
Hitches followed by fouling out to put Brandon Britt on the line, but Britt sank just one foul shot to give W&M a 79-78 edge.
JMU's Devon Moore made one of two free throws to tie it back up at 79-79, but a tough inside basket from Denzel Bowles (14 points) followed by an athletic jumper by Moore as he fell made it a two-possession game at 83-79.
One more free throw made from Bowles brought the game its final margin.