Jabari Peters capped a career-high 21-point effort with a three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to lift Sam Houston State to a 77-76 victory over James Madison in the opening game of the E-Tech Lumberjack Classic on Friday night at Stephen F. Austin’s William Johnson Coliseum.
SHSU improved to 6-3 on the season while JMU dropped its fifth game in a row in the first-ever meeting between the programs.
Peters scored 13 of his 21 points in the second half to lead a Bearkats comeback from a 13-point JMU lead with 14 and a half minutes remaining. The Dukes had led for 32 of the first 37 minutes in the game until a layup from freshman Aurimas Majauskas tied the score for the first time in the second half at 70-70 with 2:39 remaining.
After 1-of-2 free throws from JMU freshman Jackson Kent (High Point, N.C./High Point Christian), two free throws by Majauskas gave SHSU its first lead since three minutes remaining in the first half.
Graduate forward Andrey Semenov (St. Petersburg, Russia/Blue Ridge School) sank two free throws to regain the lead for the Dukes but Nathaniel Mason hit a jumper in the lane, his only basket of the game, for a 74-73 lead for the Bearkats.
Sophomore guard Charles Cooke (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic) hit two free throws and sophomore guard Ron Curry (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) connected on one of his two attempts for a 76-74 JMU lead with 30.5 seconds on the clock.
SHSU hit four of its five second-half threes in the final six minutes to achieve its comeback. The Bearkats concentrated mostly on the perimeter in their final possession with Paul Baxter feeding Peters for the contested game winner.
Madison had time for a final possession but Cooke got caught in traffic at the top of the key and his attempt with a hand in his face hit the front of the rim.
One game after his first career 20-point outing, Cooke topped that mark with 22 against the Bearkats, including 18 in the second period and one stretch scoring nine of 11 JMU points. He was 7-for-12 from the field and hit eight free throws for the third straight game on 11 attempts. He also added four rebounds and matched his career high with four assists.
After missing three games due to injury, Semenov tallied his second-best total of the season with 17 points, 10 in the first half. Kent added 11 points, seven rebounds and three steals while sophomore forward Taylor Bessick (Philadelphia, Pa./Rise Academy) contributed 10 points.
Peters added a team-high four assists with his 21 points. Majauskas and Baxter each had 11 while Terrance Motley contributed 10.
JMU led 36-32 at the break and carried the momentum into the second half to go up 41-32 on Cooke’s three-point play at the 17-minute mark. After SHSU cut it back to 41-36 with a pair of quick buckets, Madison went on an 8-0 run with a corner three by Kent, a layup from Cooke and a three by Semenov for its largest lead of the game at 49-36. However, SHSU chipped away at the lead with lane penetration, JMU foul difficulties and the late three-pointers.
SHSU shot 48 percent for the game and 47 percent from the arc (9-for-19). Meanwhile, JMU shot 42 percent (46 percent second half) and was 6-for-19 (32 percent) from the arc.
JMU took advantage of 21 SHSU turnovers with a 27-11 lead on points off turnovers and led on the glass 37-36. However, the Bearkats posted a 14-6 advantage in the second half on second-chance points.
After a slow and choppy start for both teams, the Dukes gained the early advantage with a 5-0 spurt capped by a three from Semenov. The trey broke a stretch of almost 57 minutes of game time without a made three-pointer by JMU.
The Dukes maintained a 22-16 lead with eight minutes to go following a three from Curry and five straight points from Kent.
Leading 30-26, JMU watched SHSU put together its first charge of the game, scoring six unanswered with five from Will Bond to take a 32-30 advantage. However JMU responded with the last six points of the half on a bucket by Curry as well as a three and a free throw from freshman forward Tom Vodanovich. (Wellington, New Zealand/St. Patrick’s College).
SHSU held the first-half shooting advantage at 50 percent compared to 39 percent but committed 12 turnovers to give JMU a 14-5 margin on points off turnovers.
Semenov had 10 point sin the half to pace six scores between four and 10 points. Jabari Peters had eight for the Bearkats in the half.
The E-Tech Classic will wrap up Saturday with JMU taking on host Stephen F. Austin at 9:15 p.m. Eastern. The game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic Plus, which is channel 18 on Harrisonburg Comcast cable.