HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., Dec. 3, 2011 - Senior guard Humpty Hitchens (Chillicothe, Ohio/Chillicothe) nailed a jumper from the left elbow with 2.8 seconds remaining to give James Madison a 62-60 victory over Hofstra in the Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball opener for both teams on Saturday afternoon at the Mack Sports Complex.
JMU won its third in a row to improve to 4-2 overall. The Dukes won their CAA opener for the first time in four seasons under head coach Matt Brady and just the second time in the last 11 seasons. Hofstra fell to 3-5 and 0-1 in the league. JMU also snapped a 12-game losing streak in the head-to-head series.
For the second straight game, the Dukes put the ball in Hitchens' hands with the clock winding down during a tie ball game. With JMU spreading the floor into four corners in a similar fashion to the win at Penn, Hitchens drove to the left elbow and elevated and swished his jumper over Hofstra's Dwan McMillan with 2.8 seconds left. A half-court heave by Hofstra at the buzzer was no good.
Hitchens finished with a team-high 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including a trio of three-pointers. Senior forward Julius Wells (Toledo, Ohio/Libbey) nearly had a double-double with 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Junior guard A.J. Davis (Columbus, Ohio/Harmony Christian) added 12 points for JMU.
Mike Moore led Hofstra with 24 points and seven rebounds, though he was limited to four points in the second half and his only field goal of the period came on the tying bucket in the final 30 seconds. David Imes added 10 points and seven boards.
JMU trailed by four at the break but tied the score quickly in the first two minutes of the second half. Hofstra responded with a 7-0 spurt as part of an overall 12-2 run to grab its largest lead of the game at 43-33.
The Pride still led 47-37 with 11:15 remaining when the Dukes made their push to get back into the game. A pair of threes by Hitchens cut the margin to 48-43 less than two minutes later. Trailing 50-43, junior Alioune Diouf (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern) hit a jumper, Wells canned a three and Diouf hit another layup to cap a 13-3 run and tie the score at 50-50 with 7:02 remaining.
With the game knotted at 52-52 for a minute and a half, Hofstra appeared to regain momentum with an interior pass by Shemiye McLendon leading to a Moussa Kone slam followed by a McLendon jumper. The Pride had a chance to extend the lead further after a JMU turnover, but McMillan missed a jumper with two minutes remaining.
With JMU's leading scorer limited to six points to that juncture, Davis emerged with big plays on consecutive possessions. His three-pointer with 1:47 remaining cut the deficit to one at 56-55. After a Hofstra turnover, Davis converted a three-point play with a jumper and free throw for JMU's first lead since the last four minutes of the first half.
Held quiet in the second half to that point after posting 20 in the first period, Moore hit a pair of free throws to tie it for the Pride. Hitchens responded with his first big play down the stretch, hitting a jumper from the right baseline to go up 60-58 with 38 seconds left.
Moore responded with his only field goal of the half with 26 seconds left to again tie the score at 60-60. Hitchens then ran the clock down under 10 seconds before making his move to hit the game winner with 2.8 seconds remaining.
JMU shot 42 percent from the floor after hitting 14-of-26 (54 percent) in the second half. The Dukes entered the game ranked third nationally for three-point percentage but hit just six of their 21 attempts (29 percent).
Hofstra shot 41 percent from the floor and was held to 37 percent in the second half following a 44 percent showing in the first half. The Pride shot 6-for-16 (38 percent) from the arc.
The first half was tightly-contested most of the way with neither team grabbing a lead larger than four. With JMU leading 24-21, the Pride went on a quick 10-0 burst to pull ahead 31-24 as the half was winding down. Madison got a final possession with 2.1 seconds left and Hitchens swished a three from beyond half court to cut the margin to 31-27 at the break.
Moore dominated the first half for Hofstra with 20 of the Pride's 31 points, including four three-pointers. Hitchens had eight in the first half while Davis was limited to four minutes played due to early fouls. JMU had a 22-13 advantage on the boards in the first half with 11 offensive boards leading to an 11-0 advantage in second-chance points.
Following the CAA opener, the Dukes return to non-conference action on Tuesday, Dec. 6 with a 7 p.m. contest against Kent State.