Seniors help Dukes earn first trip to tournament in 19 seasons
RICHMOND -- Three James Madison seniors, all from Ohio and in their fifth year in college, took widely divergent paths to the NCAA tournament.
In the CAA championship game Monday night at Richmond Coliseum, no one was happier or more responsible for the Dukes' 70-57 victory over Northeastern than wing man A.J. Davis, power forward Rayshawn Goins and point guard Devon Moore.
In delivering James Madison (20-14) its first trip to the NCAA tournament in 19 years, Davis (26 points, seven rebounds) supplied high-wire thrills, Goins (14 points, 13 rebounds) did the dirty work and Moore (nine points, five assists, five rebounds) had the answers down the stretch, scoring seven points in the final seven minutes.
Appropriately enough, Davis was named the most outstanding player and was joined on the all-tournament team by Goins and Moore.
"A lot of hard work, a lot of suicides," Moore said.
For Davis, it was a long way from Wyoming, where he spent a prep season followed by two unhappy years with the Cowboys. For Goins, it was a long way from two junior college stops and an injury redshirt season (shoulder). For Moore, it was a long way from a torn ACL that put the brakes on a promising career in his sophomore year.
"Like LeBron James said when he first won the championship, 'A long damn time,'?" Goins said. "It's been 19 years since JMU won the championship. It's amazing. Words can't explain the feeling."
In the closing seconds Monday, when the victory was assured, the significance wasn't lost on coach Matt Brady as he pulled his Ohio three off the floor for a deserved and long-awaited ovation.
"We've definitely seen the ups and downs and the injuries," Moore said. "It was definitely special for me because I've been here the longest."
Fueled by a crowd that was modest in numbers (6,038) but raucous in its support, James Madison overwhelmed Northeastern with a 23-1 run that featured three-point-plays by Goins and Alioune Diouf (nine points) and a 3-pointer by freshman Andre Nation (10 points). When Moore tipped in his own missed jumper, JMU was up 26-6.
"I don't know if we could have played a better first half," Brady said. "When you got all those purple shirts up there, it really did help pull us through."
The lead was 22 points at the half, but after intermission, top-seeded Northeastern (20-12) rallied behind guard Jonathan Lee, who scored all 14 of his points in the second half. Midway through the half, the Huskies rattled the Dukes with pressure, scoring nine straight points to make it 51-43.
But that's as close as Northeastern would come. Nation hit three free throws to halt the slide, and on the next four possessions, Moore had five points and a lob to Nation for a dunk as JMU resumed control 61-46.
Afterward, the Dukes hinted they weren't finished with their run.
"I'm gonna follow these guys wherever they take our basketball team," Brady said. "March is a crazy month. I've been a part of some staffs where some magical things can happen."