DEKALB, Ill., Nov. 17, 2013 – James Madison pulled away with a 9-0 run to close the first half and got a career-high 19 points from sophomore forward Taylor Bessick (Philadelphia, Pa./Rise Academy) in a 79-66 victory over San Jose State on Sunday afternoon on the final day of the NIU Invitational at the NIU Convocation Center.
JMU improved to 2-2 overall with the 2-1 showing in the weekend event. The Dukes also won for the second straight year against SJSU, which fell to 0-4 to start the season.
After reaching double figures for the first time in his career the day before, Bessick dominated the paint with 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting. He added five rebounds and went 3-for-3 at the foul line.
Freshman forward Tom Vodanovich (Wellington, New Zealand/St. Patrick’s College) and sophomore guard Charles Cooke (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic) each had 15 points to aid the JMU effort. Vodanovich was 5-for-9 from the field with a trio of three-pointers and eight rebounds. Cooke was 10-for-12 at the foul line with seven boards. Sophomore guard Ron Curry (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) added 11 points and four assists.
The Dukes shot 45 percent for the game while holding the Spartans to 34 percent and enjoyed a 40-33 advantage on the glass. Madison, which led from start to finish, topped 40 rebounds in three straight games for the first time since Dec. 4-11, 2010.
Rashad Muhammad, the younger brother of Minnesota Timberwolves guard Shabazz Muhammad, led the Spartans with 18 points off the bench. Dylan Alexander also contributed 12 off the bench. The Spartans went 10-for-40 from the arc, the most opponent three-point attempts against the Dukes since VMI tried 45 in Harrisonburg on Dec. 22, 2006.
JMU took charge late in the first half, using a 9-0 stretch to pull away from a 32-28 lead to move ahead 41-28 at the break. The Dukes held the Spartans scoreless for the final 4:35 of the half on 0-for-7 shooting from the field.
Madison had pulled in front 15-6 in the early minutes before SJSU hit consecutive threes to cut the margin. That was part of an overall 13-5 stretch for the Spartans to make it a one point game at 20-19. A three-pointer by freshman guard Jackson Kent (High Point, N.C./High Point Christian) and a pair of Cooke free throws opened the margin back up before the Dukes went on their 9-0 run.
Bessick topped his career high for points in the first half alone with 13 points while hitting all six field goal attempts. Vodanovich added nine points and six rebounds. JMU doubled up SJSU from the field, shooting 52 percent compared to 26 percent.
In the second half, an elbow jumper by Cooke extended the run to 11-0. JMU’s shooting cooled down considerably in the second half, 36 percent from the field and 23 percent from the arc, but the Dukes were able to limit the Spartans to 5-for-22 from the arc and went 19-for-27 at the stripe in the half.
SJSU cut the deficit to as close as nine on three occasions and the score stood at 58-48 with 7:39 remaining when the Dukes put the game away with a 9-0 run to post their largest lead of the season at 19 points. Two free throws apiece from Bessick, Curry and Cooke were followed by a three from Vodanovich with 5:29 remaining. The Spartans got no closer than 12 the rest of the way.
JMU will wrap up its stretch of four games in five days as the Dukes return to Harrisonburg to host their home opener Tuesday night against Detroit. The game will feature a banner raising for the 2013 Colonial Athletic Association title prior to the 7 p.m. tip.
Curry and graduate student Andrey Semenov (St. Petersburg, Russia/Blue Ridge School) were each named to the All-Tournament Team. They were joined by Matt Tiby and Jordan Aaron of Milwaukee and Travon Baker of Northern Illinois.