Top-seeded James Madison women’s basketball is headed to the NCAA tournament after the Dukes defeated two-time defending champion Delaware 70-45 in Sunday’s Colonial Athletic Association championship game at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md.
This is JMU’s (28-5) seventh tournament title in program history, the sixth as the top-seeded squad. It is the third title under Head Coach Kenny Brooks, who is now 20-8 all-time in CAA tournament games, and the first since 2011.
With the Dukes leading 16-12 at the 10:33 mark of the first half, they charged for a 12-0 run over the next four minutes to take a 28-12 lead. The Blue Hens posted four quick points before Madison fired off another 10-2 run to close the half and head into the locker room leading by 38-18. They pushed the advantage to as many as 31 points in the second half before downing the Blue Hens 70-45.
The Dukes were powered by a career day from redshirt-sophomore guard Jazmon Gwathmey (Bealeton, Va./Liberty H.S.), who earned Most Outstanding Player honors for the tournament. She scored a career-high 20 points, including 8-10 from the free throw line, and snared a career-high-tying 14 rebounds for her first double-double performance of the season. She dished out two assists with two blocks (53 this season – tied for third most) and a steal in the championship game.
Senior Precious Hall (Tallahassee, Fla./Maclay School) and senior Kirby Burkholder (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) joined Gwathmey on the all-tournament squad. Hall tallied 14 points with four assists and two steals on Sunday while Burkkholder added 11 points, seven rebounds and a season-high-tying four steals.
Other all-tournament honorees include Delaware senior Kelsey Buchanan, Delaware sophomore Joy Caracciolo, and UNCW junior Kelva Atkins.
Junior Toia Giggetts (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor) also notched 11 points on the day, her 24th consecutive double-figure game, and added eight rebounds and two steals for the Dukes. Redshirt-junior forward Lauren Okafor (Hamden, Conn./Hopkins School (Providence)) scored eight points with three blocks. All 10 Dukes who dressed saw action in the game with eight scoring.
Redshirt-senior forward Nikki Newman (Harrisonburg, Va./Turner Ashby) moved into a tie for eighth-most blocks in a season (46) with two denials on the day. She contributed two assists, moving into a tie for ninth-most in JMU history, as well as two points, four rebounds and a steal
Delaware was led by Akeema Richards’ 12 points while Courtni Green added 10 points. Buchanan chipped in six points with eight rebounds, and Caracciolo added eight points and 10 rebounds.
JMU limited Delaware to just 18 points in the first half, the 14th time this season the Dukes’ have limited an opponent to 20 or fewer points in a stanza. This was the 17th time this season out of 32 games the Dukes’ have limited an opponent to 50 or fewer points in a game.
The Dukes forced the Blue Hens into 22 turnovers, 10 of them off steals, and converted those into 26 points. JMU turned the ball over 15 times, seven off Delaware steals; however, they turned into just nine points for UD.
Outrebounding the Blue Hens 50-41, the Dukes held the advantage in second-chance points (24-11) and fast-break points (12-0).
The NCAA Selection Show airs tomorrow (Monday, March 17) at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Details to be announced tomorrow regarding a viewing party pending weather conditions.