WILLIAMSBURG, Va., – Redshirt senior guard A.J. Davis (Columbus, Ohio/Harmony Community School) poured in a career-high 36 points and James Madison overcame a 19-point first-half deficit to defeat William and Mary 69-67 in the final Colonial Athletic Association game of the regular season on Saturday evening at Kaplan Arena at William and Mary Hall.
With the win coupled with George Mason’s loss to Delaware, JMU (17-14, 11-7 CAA) clinched the No. 3 seed in next Saturday’s CAA Championship and will face a rematch with No. 6 W&M (13-16, 7-11 CAA) at 8:30 p.m.
Davis posted the second-highest scoring total in the CAA this year after 21 points in the first half and 15 points in the second half. It was his second career 30-point game after shooting 15-for-23 from the floor, including 5-for-10 from the arc.
Davis’ effort set the stage for redshirt senior guard Devon Moore’s (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) two free throws with 19.1 seconds remaining to ultimately decide the contest.
William and Mary used a 20-2 first-half run to build an advantage as large as 44-25 with two minutes left in the half. Madison cut the deficit to eight by the midpoint of the half and made its final push in the last six minutes as a three-pointer by freshman guard Ron Curry (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) cut the margin to six.
JMU cut the W&M lead to three on two occasions until a key three-pointer from the top by Tribe guard Brandon Britt with 2:38 to go to make it 65-59. However, JMU answered right back as Moore found Davis on a fastbreak dunk going the other way.
After a W&M turnover, freshman guard Andre Nation (Plant City, Fla./Faith Baptist Christian) hit two free throws to make it a two-point game with 2:12 to go. Another turnover gave JMU a chance to tie and Nation drove the right baseline for an underneath dunk to make it 65-65.
A third Tribe turnover, their 20th of the game, gave it right back to the Dukes in transition as Nation’s steal led to a go-ahead lay-in for Davis at the 1:07 mark for the first JMU lead of the game.
On the ensuing William and Mary possession, Davis blocked a layup attempt by Tribe guard Matt Run, but forward Tim Rusthoven corralled the offensive board and converted to tie the score at 67-67.
JMU’s last possession went to Moore, who penetrated the lane and found contact with Britt. After twisting his knee awkwardly during the collision, Moore recovered to hit two free throws with 19.1 seconds remaining. The final Tribe possession resulted in a missed three-pointer by W&M guard Marcus Thornton.
The 36 points by Davis were the most by a JMU player since Denzel Bowles had 40 on Feb. 15, 2011 at Towson. It was the first 30-point game by a Duke this year. Davis has now led JMU in scoring six times this year with five coming in the last seven games when he is averaging 20.4 points per game. Not to be overshadowed by his offensive effort, Davis had four steals, three blocks and five rebounds.
Davis was joined in double figures by Curry with 10 points. Moore had eight points, six assists, three rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Nation also had eight points, all in the second half.
W&M was led by the two-headed duo of Thornton and Rusthoven, who each had 20 points in the game. Thornton had 19 of his 20 points in the first half. Rusthoven was 10-for-13 from the floor and added eight rebounds. Rum tallied nine points and eight boards.
JMU won thanks to 20 forced turnovers and 12 steals, its second-best total of the season. Madison established a program record for steals in a season with 244, topping the 236 by the 2007-08 squad. The Dukes led points off turnovers 28-10.
Madison won despite W&M shooting 60 percent from the field and 44 percent from the arc (7-for-16). The Tribe was 4-for-10 at the free throw line. JMU gained an advantage at the stripe with an 11-for-13 showing (85 percent). The Dukes shot 43 percent overall and 8-for-24 (33 percent) from the arc. W&M led rebounds 35-23.
W&M pulled away from a one-point game with a 20-2 run to take charge in the first half. With the score at 24-23, the Tribe pulled ahead 44-25 by making 18 of its first 22 field goals in the game. W&M finished the half shooting 76 percent and led 16-10 on the glass.
Thornton had 19 points for W&M on 7-for-8 shooting, including 5-of-6 from the arc. Meanwhile, Davis had 21 for JMU on 8-for-12 shooting and 4-for-6 from the arc. He scored 17 consecutive JMU points over one stretch of the first half.
After sweeping the season series against W&M, JMU will now face the Tribe for the fourth time in the last five years in the CAA Championship. W&M claimed each of the last two postseason meetings, including a 72-68 win in 2011 as the No. 11 seed topping No. 6 JMU. The 8:30 p.m. contest will be televised on Comcast SportsNet.
NOTES: The No. 3 seed for JMU will be its best position for the CAA Championship since being No. 2 for the 1999-2000 event… the Dukes clinched their third winning record in five years under head coach Matt Brady, which came following eight straight losing campaigns prior to his arrival… the 11 CAA wins tied for fourth most in program history and the most since going 12-4 in 1999-2000… JMU swept its fourth CAA opponent of the season (ODU, UNCW, Delaware, W&M) for the first time since the 1999-2000 season… Moore’s six assists added to his JMU career record with 473… he also moved to a tie for third in career games (119) and fourth in career free throws (367)… the game played out similarly to 2011 when JMU trailed for all but the final 1:27 before pulling out a close win… this time JMU trailed until the final 1:07 before pulling it out… Davis’ 15 field goals were the most for JMU since Denzel Bowles had 17 in a win at Gardner-Webb on Dec. 17, 2009.