James Madison men's basketball will take on one of the nation's hottest teams on Wednesday when the Dukes travel to Philadelphia to take on the first-place Drexel Dragons. The game will air on ESPNU at the John A. Daskalakis Center with a tip off slated for 7 p.m.
Thanks to a 15-game winning streak, Drexel rose to fifth among teams receiving votes in Monday's AP Top 25 Poll while also sitting in the top 35 of the Coaches Poll. The Dragons also sit eighth in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 Coaches Poll.
While Drexel, 23-5, is deadlocked with George Mason at 14-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association standings, JMU sits in ninth place at 4-12 in conference play and 11-18 overall. Both teams are coming off Sears Bracketbusters games from this weekend where Drexel had a convincing win on national television over Cleveland State while JMU fell to Detroit. For the weekend, seven of 12 CAA teams playing in the Bracketbusters got a victory with the top six each earned victories.
On Saturday, JMU went down early to Detroit by an 18-point deficit. The Dukes were able to chip away and go into the half only down by eight. JMU was finally able to gain the lead at the 13-minute mark but were unable to stop the Titans from scoring. UDM eventually pulled away from the Dukes in the final three minutes to take the win 82-70. Junior guard A.J. Davis recorded a game-high 26 points on the night, which accounted for his 11th 20-point game of the season.
Drexel faced the Vikings of Cleveland State on Saturday with the Dragons controlling from the opening tip to record their 15th straight win. The streak ranks second in the nation behind only Kentucky with 18 straight wins. Drexel dominated Cleveland State early in the game allowed just a single field goal in the first eight minutes. Cleveland State was able to stage a quick comeback, but the Dragons ousted it and continued to out-power Cleveland State for the remainder of the half. After the break, Drexel jumped out to a 29-point lead and never looked back as it defeated Cleveland State 69-49. Freshman guard Damion Lee led the way for the Dragons by scoring 18 points in the win.
Drexel is led offensively by the three-headed monster of Frantz Massenant, Damion Lee and Samme Givens. The CAA Player of the Year candidate is averaging 15 points per game while shooting 48 percent from behind the arc. He also had 16 points in the last meeting between JMU. Freshman Damion Lee, a contender for Rookie of the Year, is becoming a valuable asset to the squad while averaging eleven points per game for the Dragons. Forward Samme Givens has been dominating down on the block by averaging ten points and eight rebounds per game. Drexel is also leading the CAA in many categories including: scoring defense, free throw percentage, field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, rebounding defense and defensive rebounding percentage.
As of late, the Dukes are being led by Davis and redshirt junior forward Andrey Semenov. Davis is leading the team in scoring with 16 points per game while shooting 43 percent from the field. Semenov has recently resurged as an offensive threat by averaging 17.6 points per game in the last three games, 14.4 in the last nine. He is also now hitting 44 percent from three-point land on the season. Senior guard Humpty Hitchens is listed as questionable for the game after injuring his shoulder in the Georgia State game last week.
It will be the second match up in three weeks between the two teams after Drexel won in Harrisonburg 63-56 on Feb. 8. Drexel is now 15-4 against the Dukes and will look to continue both its active season winning streak and active home winning streak, both 15 games. The Dragons last loss to any opponent at the DAC came last February in a 68-54 JMU win. During the first meeting two weeks ago, JMU got out to a quick eight-point lead only to see it be squashed by an 11-0 run by Drexel. Drexel's Frantz Massenant led all scorers with 16 points and added three steals. In that game, Massenant, Lee and Givens combined for 42 of the Dragons 63 points. JMU was led by A.J. Davis who scored 13 points and hit 3-of-5 from behind the arc and Humpty Hitchens chipped in 13 points.
JMU's final game of the regular season will be at home against the Towson Tigers on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Convocation Center. The game will also include senior night festivities honoring Humpty Hitchens and Julius Wells in their final JMU home games.