Sophomore guards Charles Cooke (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic) and Ron Curry (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) combined with graduate forward Andrey Semenov (St. Petersburg, Russia/Blue Ridge School) for 53 points to lead James Madison to a 73-68 victory over Ball State on Monday evening at the JMU Convocation Center.
JMU won consecutive games for the first time this season wrapped up the non-conference portion of its schedule at 5-9. The Dukes have won three of their last four games headed into conference play. After losing the first all-time meeting between the programs, BSU fell to 2-8 for the season with its seventh straight setback.
Cooke reached 20 points for the fourth time in seven games while adding a career-best six steals and four assists. Curry posted his third straight significant outing with 17 points, six rebounds and six assists, which matched his career best. Semenov added 16 points, including a 3-for-5 game from the three-point arc.
Clinging to a 26-25 lead late in the first half, JMU grabbed momentum with a 13-2 run spanning the periods for its largest lead of the game at 39-27 within the first minute of the second half.
Ball State cut the deficit to a single possession on four different occasions in the second half, including as close as 60-59 on Jesse Berry’s sixth three-pointer of the game with 5:09 remaining.
However, Cooke stepped up with perhaps the key play of the game for the Dukes, drawing a foul on a made layup and converting the three-point play for a 63-59 lead under five minutes.
The Cardinals then missed the front end of a bonus situation at the foul line and Curry hit a jumper the other way for the Dukes. A steal by JMU sophomore Taylor Bessick (Philadelphia, Pa./Rise Academy) set up a chance for him to put back Semenov’s missed jumper for a 7-0 run and a 67-59 lead with 2:33 remaining that essentially clinched the win.
Ball State still had a final push. The teams traded free throws on three possessions to make it 69-64 with 1:11 on the clock. A loose ball turnover by the Dukes gave the Cardinals two more chances at the line, and the visitors converted to make it 69-66 with 52.2 seconds left.
Cooke hit 1-of-2 opportunities at the stripe with 31.2 seconds left and a missed three by BSU on the next possession was followed by two Semenov free throws to wrap up the win as JMU recorded the 73-68 final tally.
Majok Majok led BSU with a double-double of 18 points and 14 rebounds while shooting 7-for-10 from the field. Berry’s 18 points came on a 6-for-13 showing from the arc. Zavier Turner added 10 points and six assists.
JMU shot 50 percent from the field and 44 percent (7-for-16) from the arc. The Cardinals enjoyed a 37-28 advantage on the glass, including 11-5 on offensive rebounds, but committed 19 turnovers for the night. BSU shot 41 percent overall and 36 percent from the arc (9-for-25).
Ball State led only twice briefly in the first half at 3-2 and 7-5 before JMU answered with an 11-2 run to pull ahead 16-9 at the 11:20 mark. The Cardinals did tie the score once at 18-18, but the Dukes had a quick response with a top of the key jumper by Semenov and a fastbreak layin by Lukic.
Madison held a narrow 26-25 lead heading into the final three minutes but the Dukes picked up the pressure forcing four of BSU’s 11 first-half turnovers in the last three minutes. Turnovers on three straight possessions out of the media timeout led to two Curry free throws, a Curry layup and a three by Cooke.
After two free throws by BSU’s Zavier Turner, Semenov sank two free throws of his own and freshman forward Tom Vodanovich (Wellington, New Zealand/St. Patricks College) blocked a three-point attempt by the Cardinals from the corner at the buzzer.
JMU shot 55 percent in the first half, including 4-for-7 (57 percent) from the arc, while holding BSU to 35 percent overall and 31 percent from the outside.
Curry led Madison with nine points and three assists in the first half with Semenov adding eight and Cooke contributing seven points while matching his career high of four steals in the first 20 minutes.
Defending Colonial Athletic Association champion James Madison will take part in the league’s first conference game of the season as the Dukes travel to UNCW on Saturday for a 7 p.m. game.