Final Score: James Madison 80, Drexel 70
Drexel Player of the Game: Sammy Mojica
Key to the Game: JMU Technical Foul
Next Game: In the future
The postseason is a fickle thing. It can be just an instant, or a month long celebration. The Dragons played some of the best defense they had shown all season in the first half of this game. And then that defense and their postseason dreams ended in an instant.
The Dragons were leading by a score of 25-23 with 1:51 to play in the first half when James Madison Head Coach Louis Rowe had a technical foul called on him. And then another. It sent Kari Jonsson to the line where he hit all four free throws. It sent Coach Rowe to the showers. And it set the James Madison Dukes on fire. In the following 21:51 the Dukes demanded the ball, showed confidence and penetrated to the basket like they may not have all season long. They stopped settling for three pointers and worked their way past the Drexel guards and got into the paint. The referees attempted to take back control of the game and called the game tightly from that point forward, forcing Rodney Williams career to end with a disqualification. Austin Williams joined him shortly thereafter and Mohammed Bah had 4 on him early in the second half, forcing Coach Spiker to alternate between a 4 guard set and playing rarely used freshman Jeremy Peck.
After forcing JMU to take 11 three pointers and just 12 two pointers in the first half, the Dukes took just 6 three pointers compared with 24 twos in the second. After being proud of his defense in the first half, James Madison showed Coach Spiker what fans had seen for most of the season in the second half. When the Dukes got angry and started to create offensive pressure, the Dragons defense sagged, to the tune of allowing 55 points in a half. And with that, the college basketball careers of at least Rodney Williams, Mohammed Bah, Elgin Ford and John Moran concluded.
The Dragons will return next year with older, wiser guards. Austin Williams will anchor a younger front court. No one expected a miracle in year one, although the seniors may have secretly wished for it. Much like in this contest, there were moments of glory this year, but lack of consistency and struggling under pressure ruled the day. With the coaching staff and players more firmly in place next year, expectations will rise. We’re on to year two.