After a successful five-game home stand, JMU can even its record for the first time this season when it travels to play two West Coast teams as part of the Vegas Holiday Hoops event at MGM Grand Garden Arena. JMU will play San Jose State (5-4) on Saturday at 11:30 p.m. (EST) and will face San Diego (6-6) at 6:30 p.m. (EST) on Sunday.
The Dukes (4-6) leave for Las Vegas after finishing the longest home stretch of the Matt Brady era with a 3-2 record and an improved offense. JMU has scored more than 72 points per game over its last five contests, a noticeable increase over the 65.8 it averaged over the first five games of the season. Additionally, JMU's three wins came by a combined 47 points. Its two losses were each one-point shortcomings.
The return of senior forward Andrey Semenov has been a critical factor in the Dukes' resurgence. Madison is 3-1 since Semenov returned from injury on December 1 in a 10-point win over Winthrop. He is the second-leading scorer on the team, contributing 11.6 points per game (13.8 last four games), and is shooting 52.4 percent (11-of-21) from the arc this season.
Fellow senior forward Rayshawn Goins continues to lead the team in scoring. He posted the eighth double-double of his career on Sunday in an 85-73 win over UNCG, finishing with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Goins has scored 20 points in four games this season. He leads the Colonial Athletic Association in that category, alongside Delaware's Devon Saddler and William and Mary's Marcus Thornton.
Senior guard Devon Moore continues to pace the Dukes as he has all season. Moore, who scored his 1,000th career point as a JMU player in an overtime loss to Richmond on December 8, stands at 23rd on the school's all-time scoring chart. He tied a career-high with 22 points against UNCG and also chipped in seven assists, nine rebounds and three steals, a performance that earned him CAA Player of the Week.
Moore's seven assists were a season high. He has now handed out at least five assists in five straight games (8-of-10 overall) and leads the conference with 4.7 assists per game.
Moore is also third in the conference in steals, swiping 2.2 balls per game. He ranks just behind backcourt teammate Andre Nation, who is ranked second in the CAA with 2.3 steals per game. As a team, JMU is 39th nationally with 9.3 thefts per game.
For the second straight contest, the Dukes will need to outperform a conference's leading scorer. After outgunning the Southern Conference's Trevis Simpson (19.9 points/game) on Sunday, JMU will need to match the fireworks of San Jose State guard James Kinney (22.6 points/game) of the Western Athletic Conference.
Kinney, who also pulls down 5.9 rebounds per game, hasn't scored fewer than 18 points in any game all season. The Spartans are 4-2 when he scores 20 or more. Even if the Dukes can stop Kinney, they'll still need to contain junior forward Chris Cunningham, who has four double-doubles in his past six games.
San Jose State, which will be JMU's second straight "Spartans" opponent, enters the weekend at 5-4. After five wins in six games, SJSU most recently fell at home against Santa Clara, 75-54, on Dec. 11. The Spartans will be coming off of a 10-day layoff for their game against JMU.
In its second Las Vegas game, JMU will need to lock down a precise shooting team in San Diego. The squad as a whole is shooting 46 percent on the season.
JMU and San Diego seem to mirror each other in strikingly specific ways. Each is a member of a prominent mid-major conference, and each is built around multiple contributors rather than one or two elite scorers.
Interestingly, each team also features a senior forward (JMU's Semenov and San Diego's Chris Manresa) who missed extended time after his season opener, only to return four games ago to reverse the fortunes of their respective teams.
Since the return of Semenov and Manresa, JMU and San Diego are a combined 6-2, which each loss coming at the hands of an intrastate, out-of-conference rival (Richmond and San Diego State).
This will be JMU's first trip to Las Vegas in over 20 years. The Dukes haven't played there since a bout with No. 1 UNLV on January 2, 1991. The Vegas Holiday Hoops games will be the first-ever college basketball games contested at an arena that typically hosts major concerts, MMA, UFC and wrestling. The arena typically seats 16,800 but will have a configuration of about 7,500 for the weekend's games.
NOTE: There will be no TV or online video coverage of the Vegas games. The only way to follow action live will be via free MadiZONE audio coverage or the JMU/nTelos Radio Network.