Dukes look to build off strong season

Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 10:02 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The James Madison men’s basketball team is looking to build off a strong performance during the 2020-2021 season.

JMU went 13-7 overall, 8-2 in CAA play, and claimed a share of the CAA regular-season title. It was a dramatic turnaround after the Dukes finished in last place in the conference during the 2019-2020 season.

“We just kept getting better and better,” said JMU first-year head coach Mark Byington. “Guys developed confidence, they had fun. We were able to win the regular-season championship and I felt like we had the best team in the league when we had Matt Lewis (healthy).”

Byington was named CAA Coach of the Year in his debut season with the Dukes and Lewis was the CAA Player of the Year after averaging 19.7 points per game. However, Lewis missed the final two games of the season, including a loss to Elon in the CAA Tournament, due to a knee injury. Despite the early end to the season, excitement surrounds the Dukes with four starters returning and two key bench players back.

“We all had a chip on our shoulder,” said freshman guard Terell Strickland, who started 17 games and led the Dukes with 31 steals. “That’s what Coach (Byington) told us all year. That’s why be brought everybody in that he brought in, because we all had a chip on our shoulder. We all had something to prove.”

With Lewis expected to turn pro, junior guard Vado Morse will likely be JMU’s go-to-guy on offense in 2021-2022. The Mount Saint Mary’s transfer averaged 14.4 points per game and made 42 three-pointers this past season.

“Before every practice, every huge game, Coach (Byington) wanted to remind us he brought in a lot of people who had something to prove,” said Morse. “People that had a chip on their shoulder. So once he told us that we just knew we had to get things rolling.”

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