Top-seeded James Madison women’s basketball plays for the Colonial Athletic Association championship title on Sunday after downing fourth-seeded Drexel 55-43 in Saturday’s semifinal round. The Dukes upped their record to 27-5 overall while the Dragons finished the regular season 15-16.
With JMU and Drexel tied at 18-all w/ four minutes to go in the first half, the Dukes mounted an 11-0 run to close the half and take the double-digit lead for good. Up 29-18 to start the second half, JMU pushed their run to 16-0 for a 34-18 advantage with 17:14 remaining. The Dukes led by as many as 21 points in the final stanza.
Sophomore Precious Hall (Tallahassee, Fla./Maclay School) and senior guard Kirby Burkholder (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) tied for game-high scoring with 11 points each to lead four Dukes in double figures. Burkholder set a new CAA tournament record for rebounds in a game with 22 boards, the third most in JMU history. She surpassed the previous CAA record of 20, set by Kim Giddens (ODU) in 2003 and JMU’s Meredith Alexis in 2007. The game marked her 30th-career double-figure rebound performance, third most in JMU history, and her 10th double-double of the season.
Redshirt-sophomore guard Jazmon Gwathmey (Bealeton, Va./Liberty H.S.) and junior forward Toia Giggetts (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor) each chipped in 10 points for JMU. Giggetts, who posted all 10 points in the second half, scored in double figures for the 23rd consecutive game to move into a tie for third-longest streak in JMU history.
Drexel was led by Fiona Flanagan and Abby Redick with 10 points each. Flanagan and Tory Thierolf tied for team-high rebounds with six each.
JMU won the boards with a 41-27 advantage. In the first half, JMU outrebounded Drexel 20-9 with 13 of the Dukes’ boards coming from Burkholder. Madison tallied eight steals off 14 Drexel turnovers while the Dragons committed four steals on the Dukes’ 12 turnovers.
From the floor, JMU shot 37.5 percent but were held to 9.5 percent (2-21) from 3-point range. Drexel shot 31.9 percent from the field with a 46.2-percent mark (6-13) from beyond the arc.
The Dragons opened the game on a 7-2 run before the Dukes settled in for a 10-2 run of their own, taking their first lead off a pair of Mickens layups. A 3-pointer by Thierolf tied the game at 12-all with 9:22 to go in the first half and sparked a five-minute stretch that saw three ties and no lead greater than two points.
With four minutes remaining in the first half, Gwathmey used an offensive rebound and put-back jumper to put JMU ahead 20-18, the final lead change of the game. The sequence sparked an 11-0 run to close the half, including four turnovers by Drexel. Two of the four turnovers came off backcourt thefts by Madison as the Dukes headed into the locker room leading 29-18. JMU held Drexel scoreless for 8:06 to bridge the half and without a field goal for 9:13.
The Dukes face the winner of the semifinal game between second-seeded Delaware and third-seeded Charleston. The CAA championship game begins Sunday, March 16 at noon at The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, Md.