Senior guard Kirby Burkholder (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) scored 18 points on her way to claiming Most Valuable Player honors as the James Madison women’s basketball team beat St. John’s 64-51 in the final game of the Chartwells Holiday Classic at Carnesecca Arena on Sunday.
The Dukes won their third straight to improve to 8-2 on the season and 4-0 in true road games. St. John’s lost its third straight to fall to 5-4 on the year.
Burkholder added six rebounds and two steals to her game-high 18 points for the day in 38 minutes. She was joined on the All-Tournament team by redshirt-junior center Lauren Okafor (Hampden, Conn./Hopkins School (Providence), who scored eight points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked five shots against the Red Storm, and redshirt-junior guard Jazmon Gwathmey (Bealeton, Va./Liberty) who had 10 points, six blocks and two steals.
Junior forward Toia Giggetts (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor) scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds on Sunday while sophomore guard Angela Mickens (Staunton, Va./Robert E. Lee) had seven points, seven rebounds and two assists.
The Red Storm was led by 15 points off the bench by Eugeneia McPherson. The All-Tournament guard hit on three second-half 3-pointers and had two assists and a rebound. Guard Aliyyah Handford chipped in 12 points and six rebounds, but turned the ball over seven times in 39 minutes. Forward Amber Thompson contributed eight points, six rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
After leading by as many as 17 points at the 18:30 mark of the second half, the Dukes held off a furious St. John’s rally. The Red Storm cut the lead to as little as two points on a jumper by forward Jade Walker with 7:33 left to play. Madison responded with a 7-0 run, including five straight points by Giggetts. A three-point play by Handford trimmed the advantage back down to three points, but the Dukes were good on all six free-throw attempts down the stretch to keep the Red Storm at bay.
Sunday was the first game all season JMU did not outrebound its opponents as each team finished with 37 boards. The Dukes shot 43.4 percent from the field and finished with 12 blocks and six steals while St. John’s shot 33.3 percent and had seven blocks and six steals. JMU enjoyed the advantage at the free throw line as it hit on 16 of 21 attempts for a 76.2 percentage while its opponent shot just 52.2 percent (12-23) from the charity stripe.
JMU held St. John’s to just two points over the final 5:41 of the first half, including a scoreless stretch by the Red Storm over the final 4:25 before halftime. Okafor paced an early 6-0 run for Madison, scoring three straight layups to put her team in front 15-9. St. John’s scored four of the next six points to pull within four at 17-13, but Burkholder drained a 3-pointer from straight away to start a 12-point run to close the half for JMU. Burkholder had a hand in the first seven points, hitting her three and a layup as well as generating a steal and assisting on a layup by Mickens.
The Dukes defense was ferocious in the first stanza. They generated 13 turnovers and blocked eight shots, including a career-high five from Gwathmey. The sophomore guard also had two steals while Burkholder grabbed a team-best six rebounds.
The 13 points were the fewest JMU had allowed in a half since limiting Maine to 10 points in the second half of an 88-34 win on Dec. 28, 2012.
Gwathmey finished with a game-high six blocks, the most since Crystal Ross had six against Old Dominion on Feb. 1, 2012 as a freshman.
JMU returns home to the Convocation Center this week to put an end to its six-game road trip. The Dukes take on Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18.