James Madison's men's basketball will look to break a five-game losing skid when it visits Towson on Saturday at noon. The game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic.
In each of their last four CAA losses, the Dukes trailed by just a single possession at some point during the second half but each time were unable to break through for a lead. JMU will look to break through the injuries that have piled up over the course of a 12-game month of January as it matches up against last-place Towson on the road.
JMU dropped a 63-56 decision against conference juggernaut Drexel Wednesday evening, extending Madison's losing streak to five games while falling to 10-16 overall and 3-11 in the CAA as Drexel improved the nation's third-longest winning streak to 12 games. JMU's last win came against CAA opponent William and Mary on Jan. 26, a game in which the Dukes defeated the Tribe 59-47.
Against Drexel, redshirt junior guard A.J. Davis led the Dukes with 13 points and five rebounds. Senior guard Humpty Hitchens added 11 points while Devon Moore and Enoch Hood both chipped in with nine points each to round out the offense.
Drexel was able to break open a tight 26-24 game at half thanks to a 13-2 run midway through the second half to extend its lead to 16 with less than nine minutes left in regulation. The Dukes were able to rally within seven points with three minutes remaining but could get no closer. Drexel improved its shooting percentage in the second half, shooting 50 percent from the field after JMU held the Dragons to 32 percent in the first half. Sophomore guard Frantz Massenat led the Dragons with 16 points. Senior forward Samme Givens contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Towson traveled to one of the CAA's other tri-leaders on Wednesday and fell decisively 66-43 against VCU. The loss marked three straight CAA defeats for the Tigers, dropping their record to 1-25 overall and 1-13 in CAA play. Towson had lost its first 22 games of the season until defeating UNCW 66-61 on Jan. 28 at home, a win that snapped Towson's NCAA record 41-game losing streak.
Senior forward Robert Nwankwo proved to be Towson's sole offensive weapon in Richmond, registering 19 points and nine rebounds for the Tigers on Wednesday. VCU's full court pressure proved too much for the Tigers, as it limited Towson's shooting to 41 percent from the field with an 0-for-6 performance from the arc. VCU's pressure defense forced 28 Towson turnovers, which led to a 35-13 advantage in points off turnovers. The Tigers rank in the bottom four nationally for overall record, scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage, three-pointers per game, free throw percentage, assists per game, assist/turnover ratio, turnovers per game and turnover margin.
VCU built a 32-20 lead at the half and carried that momentum into the second, scoring five points in 33 seconds. Towson used a 6-0 run of its own to cut the deficit back to 11 before the Rams extended their lead back to 14, not allowing Towson to get any closer for the rest of the game. VCU's bench proved to be a difference in the game, outscoring Towson 28-9.
The Tigers rely heavily on Nwankwo, who is one of only two players that appeared on Towson's roster a year ago, though he missed the entire 2010-11 season. Nwankwo leads the team in shooting percentage at 45 percent from the field while averaging 11 points per game. He ranks 21st nationally with 2.6 blocks per game, 27th with 10 double-doubles and 44th with 9.1 rebounds per game.
Sophomore forward Marcus Damas will also need to provide the Tigers with an offensive presence, as the team has only managed to score above 60 points in three games the entire season. Damas leads the team with an average 12 points per game.
For JMU, A.J. Davis is averaging 16 points per game and is shooting 45 percent from the field, while Hitchens is close behind with 15 points per game and 42 percent from the field. Both players rank in the top six in the league in both categories.
JMU leads the series 24-10 and has won four of the last five games against the Tigers. JMU's last victory against Towson came on February 15, 2011 at the Towson Center, by a score of 72-61.
In the last meeting between these two programs, previous senior forward Denzel Bowles recorded a career-high 40 points as JMU shot 62 percent from the floor in the second half to break a 33-33 tie at the break. The Dukes' defense shut down the Tigers' offense in the second half, limiting them to shooting just 31 percent from the field. JMU used a 10-2 run to close out the final four minutes of regulation. The Dukes outscored Towson in the paint, 46-24, and won the battle on the boards, 37-27.
Following Saturday's CAA contest, the Dukes will return to CAA action when they host Georgia State Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center. Georgia State won the previous meeting between these two teams on Jan. 23 by a score of 74-58. The game will be available for viewing on ESPN3.