HARRISONBURG, Va., Nov. 13, 2011 - Senior guard Humpty Hitchens (Chillicothe, Ohio/Chillicothe) and junior guard A.J. Davis (Columbus, Ohio/Harmony Community) notched 26 and 23 points, respectively, to pace James Madison to a 82-73 win over Canisius in its season opener Sunday afternoon at the Convocation Center.
Hitchens poured in a career high 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field, including four three-pointers. He added six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Davis, making his JMU debut after transferring from Wyoming, scored 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the floor and 9-of-13 at the foul line. He added four boards, three assists, two steals and a block. Senior Julius Wells (Toledo, Ohio/Libbey) added 13 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Guard Harold Washington led Canisius with 23 points and five steals. Forward Chris Manhertz added 16 points, nine boards and three blocks. Guard Alshwan Hymes added 15 while guard Gaby Belardo contributed 11 points, five boards, four assists and three blocks.
After trailing at the half 40-37, JMU took its first lead of the second period thanks to an 8-0 run capped by the first career bucket, a three-pointer, by freshman guard Arman Marks (Louisville, Ky./Eastern) with 15 to go.
The teams traded leads at the midpoint of the half until a 7-0 run, including a Wells three and buckets by Hitchens and junior forward Trevon Flores (Harvey, La./Helen Cox), made it 70-64.
Canisius had one last push as a three by Belardo, just the second of the game for the Griffs, cut it to 70-69. However, a slam over a defender by Davis resulted in a three-point play and Hitchens followed with a huge trey from the top of the arc to give the Dukes a 76-69 lead with 1:34 to go, all but sealing the victory.
Both teams shot 44 percent from the floor, however the Dukes connected on seven three-pointers compared to two for the Golden Griffins. JMU also hit 17 of its 22 attempts at the foul line compared to 9-of-13 for Canisius.
Madison jumped out to a commanding 23-14 lead eight minutes into the game with 10 points from Hitchens. However, the offense managed just one field goal over the next eight minutes as Canisius closed the gap quickly on an 8-0 run. JMU was 1-for-11 from the field during that eight-minute span. The teams alternated leads five times the rest of the half as Canisius took a 40-37 lead into the break.
Hitchens had 12 points for the Dukes while Davis added 11 with 10 coming in the final five minutes of the period, giving him 22 in the final 25 minutes of the game. Manhertz had 12 first-half points for the Griffs while Washington added 10.
JMU will play again on Saturday, Nov. 19 with a 3 p.m. game at La Salle.
NOTES: JMU won its home opener for the sixth consecutive season and won its season opener for the first time in four seasons under Matt Brady, whose Dukes fell to top 25 opponents each of the previous three seasons... Hitchens posted the first 20-point game of his JMU career and topped his previous career high of 23 set as a freshman at Akron in 2008 against North Carolina A&T... Wells scored the first JMU basket of the new season on a three 1:16 into the contest... Wells reached double figures for the 73rd time in his JMU career, good for eighth in program history... freshman forward Enoch Hood (Norfolk, Va./Booker T. Washington) scored his first career points on a putback slam at the 13:15 mark of the first half... two Dukes scored 20 points in a game for the first time since Denzel Bowles (27) and Wells (23) in a 92-90 overtime loss at Hofstra on Jan. 24... JMU attempted 24 three-pointers in the game, a total it topped just twice all of last season... Flores had a career-high nine rebounds for the Dukes... Canisius did not hit its first three until 7:52 remaining in the game, finishing 2-of-16 from the arc... the game was the return contest from a BracketBusters game in Buffalo in 2009 (70-66 Canisius win).