HARRISONBURG, Va. (JMU Athletics) -- Three score in double-digits as James Madison women's basketball defeats Liberty 76-53 on Sunday afternoon at the Convocation Center. With the win, JMU improved to 5-1 while Liberty dropped to 1-5.
Kamiah Smalls dribbles through traffic during a win over Liberty.
The Dukes were led offensively by Jackie Benitez, who had 18 points. Kamiah Smalls tacked on 16 points, four assists and three steals and Kayla Cooper-Williams helped out with 14 points, eight rebounds, two steals and four blocks.
Devon Merritt pulled down four offensive rebounds to lead the Dukes, powering second chance opportunities for JMU's offense. The team nabbed 13 offensive boards and turned them into 13 second chance points in the game.
JMU's defense held Liberty to only 35.7% shooting from the field.
How it Happened
After falling behind 11-9, JMU went on a 5-0 run with 1:51 left in the first quarter, culminating in a three from Smalls, to take a 14-11 lead. The Dukes then maintained that lead and entered the quarter break with a 16-13 advantage. JMU capitalized on three Liberty turnovers in the period, turning them into four points on the other end of the floor.
JMU built that first quarter lead to 25-17 before going on an 8-0 run starting at the 6:00 mark in the second period, highlighted by a three from Benitez, to increase its lead to 33-17. The Flames cut into that lead, but the Dukes still enjoyed a 34-26 advantage heading into halftime. JMU forced nine Liberty turnovers in the period and turned them into 13 points.
JMU continued to preserve its halftime lead before going on a 7-0 run, punctuated by a basket from Smalls, to expand its lead further to 56-42 with 3:19 to go in the third. Before the conclusion of the third period, the Flames had cut into that lead, but the Dukes still entered the fourth quarter with a 56-44 edge. JMU knocked down four three-pointers in the quarter to score 12 of its 22 total points.
JMU kept widening that lead, expanding it to 61-47 before going on a 10-0 run to grow the lead to 71-47 with 3:12 to go in the contest. The Flames narrowed the margin before the game was over, but the Dukes still cruised the rest of the way for the 76-53 win. JMU fired away from deep in the quarter, knocking down three shots to account for nine of its 20 points.
Three Dukes scored in double digits for the third time this season
Jackie Benitez led the way offensively with 18 points, while Smalls and Cooper-Williams added 16 and 14, respectively
Cooper-Williams flirted with a double-double grabbing eight rebounds while also blocking four shots
Kamiah Smalls now stands alone in 10th all-time with 544 field goals made. She surpassed Tamera Young who had 540 on her career.
Smalls is also tied for 11th all-time with Alissa Harris with 1,473 career points.
Jackie Benitez moved into 18th all-time in scoring with 1,296 points. She passed Mendy Childress (1,281), Missy Dudley (1,284) and Vicki Harris (1,294).
JMU's 10 team steals is a season-high tying when they had 10 against St. John's
The Dukes' nine blocks also tied a season-high with the nine they had against Longwood.
JMU made 10 three-pointers for the second time this season. Against Longwood, JMU hit 11.
JMU has now won six-straight games against the Flames
The 13 points in the second quarter by Liberty were the fewest points allowed in the frame this season.
JMU held Liberty to nine points in the fourth quarter, the fourth time this season they have held and opponent under 10 points in a quarter.
The Dukes turned 23 Liberty turnovers into 28 points
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Kayla Cooper-Williams: "When you see the ball going in it makes you more confident with your shot. I just wanted to be more aggressive."
Kamiah Smalls: "I think that shows during every game is our passion for the game. We bring 110% every game even if it doesn't look like it. We as a whole have to work on being consistent and putting together four whole quarter and 40 mins. If we do that we are going to be in a really good position."
Coach Sean O'Regan: "Overall pretty good solid performance against a really good team. I thought we had different people step up. Devon is stepping up, Kayla had 14 and Jackie & Kamiah did their thing and I thought Maddie did great in her game back. Good team win against a team that I think is going to be really good."
JMU will travel to Virginia for the Cavalier Classic this weekend. The Dukes will first take on UVA on Saturday, Nov. 30 at 2 p.m. Then they will face UCF on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 1 p.m.