Sophomore guard Ron Curry (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) sank a 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 6.5 seconds remaining in overtime to break a tie and lift James Madison to a 63-61 win over Drexel in a Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball game Wednesday night at the Convocation Center.
JMU won its second in a row overall and third in a row at home to improve to 11-17 overall and 6-8 in the CAA. Combined with other results, the Dukes sit just a half game back of fourth place with two league games remaining. Drexel had won three of its previous four games but fell to 14-12 overall and 6-7 in the conference.
Curry played a pivotal role in a final-possession league win for the fourth time this season. He scored seven of his 18 points in overtime with all three field goals either giving JMU the lead or tying the score.
After Drexel tied the game at 58-58 on two Chris Fouch free throws with 39.3 seconds left, the Dukes ran the shot clock down to the final seconds while putting the ball in Curry’s hand. With Drexel’s defense providing a momentary opening, Curry swished the trey with 6.5 seconds showing.
Sophomore guard Andre Nation (Plant City, Fla./Faith Baptist Christian) stole Drexel’s halfcourt inbounds pass and hit two free throws to make it 63-58. Frantz Massenat hit a late 40-footer to account for the 63-61 final to mark Drexel’s only made three in 12 attempts in the game.
Curry’s 18 points came on 8-for-19 shooting. He was joined in double figures by Nation with 12 points, seven boards and two blocks along with sophomore guard Charles Cooke (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic) with 13 points and five boards. Freshman forward Tom Vodanovich (Wellington, New Zealand/St Patricks College) matched his career high with 11 rebounds, including 10 in the first half, to go with six points and two blocks.
After struggling to 18 percent shooting in the first half, JMU turned it around to 61 percent (14-for-23) for the second half and overtime combined. The Dukes led the Dragons on the glass 45-36 and had a season-high eight blocked shots.
Drexel struggled from the field all game with its 30.4 percent mark ranking as JMU’s second-best opponent rate of the season, trailing only the 29.1 percent by Hofstra three games earlier. The Dragons shot 26.9 percent in the first half, 33.3 percent in the second half and went 2-for-6 in overtime. Drexel kept battling thanks to a 26-for-30 performance (87 percent) at the free throw line.
Massenat paced DU with 15 points while Fouch added 13. The senior guards combined to go 7-for-32 (22 percent) from the floor. Tavon Allen added 11 points while Dartaye Ruffin added 11 rebounds and five points.
JMU trailed 23-16 at halftime with its fewest first-half points since posting 12 against the Dragons a year ago. However, the Dukes turned the tide in the second half with a 17-5 run over the first eight minutes. After hitting just five field goals in the first half, Madison hit six of its first seven tries in the second half with Nation and Cooke nailing 3-pointers and freshman forward Yohanny Dalembert (Port-au-Prince, Haiti/Lower Merion (Pa.)) driving to the hoop for a go-ahead basket. A dunk by Nation on a steal by Vodanovich capped the run to make it 33-28 JMU at the 12-minute mark.
Two free throws and a layup by Fouch put the visitors back in front at 38-37 at the eight-minute mark and freshman Rodney Williams added a putback dunk to make it 40-37.
The teams battled through three ties until Vodanovich came open for a layup at the shot clock to put Madison up 45-43 with 3:10 on the clock. Two free throws by Cooke and a jumper by Curry sandwiched around three Drexel free throws left the score at 49-46 in JMU’s favor with 1:11 remaining.
Massenat hit two free throws for Drexel with 41.6 seconds to go to cut it to one and Curry went 1-for-2 with 20 seconds showing to make it 50-48. On Drexel’s final possession of regulation, Massenat found an opening driving from left to right through the lane and dished to Williams for the tying dunk with 6.6 seconds left. Curry was unable to get a shot off at the end, sending the game into the extra session.
Drexel scored first in overtime and forced JMU to match baskets until Curry’s layup with 1:35 remaining gave the dukes their first overtime lead at 57-56. After a Drexel turnover, Cooke hit 1-of-2 free throws to make it 58-56 with 53.9 seconds remaining.
Drexel had its first shot blocked strongly out of bounds by Vodanovich, but Fouch was sent to the line and hit both tries to tie the score at 58-58 and set the stage for Curry’s late heroics.
The first half was dominated by offensive struggles on both sides. JMU was unable to score for the first four and a half minutes as Drexel grabbed a 6-0 lead. Curry’s putback basket got the Dukes started to tie the score 6-6.
JMU took its first lead on a Jackson Kent (High Point, N.C./High Point Christian) 3-pointer to make it 11-8. Drexel responded with the next seven points to move back in front 15-11. With the score at 19-16, the Dragons netted the final four points of the half on a Major Canady layup and two free throws from Ruffin.
JMU outrebounded the Dragons 26-19 but was cold offensively, going 5-for-28 from the field, including 1-for-10 from the arc. Combined with a 5-for-20 second half at Drexel two weeks earlier, the Dukes shot 21 percent over their last 40 minutes against Drexel as of halftime before the 180-degree turn on shooting in the second half.
Allen led the Dragons with six first-half points while Kent had five for the Dukes. Vodanovich had 10 of his 11 rebounds in the first half alone.
JMU will have its bye in the CAA schedule on Saturday and play its home finale on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. against Towson.