HARRISONBURG, Va., Feb. 2, 2014 – William and Mary guard Marcus Thornton poured in 26 points, including 6-for-9 shooting on 3-pointers, and James Madison’s comeback effort fell just short as W&M claimed an 81-79 Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball decision on Sunday afternoon at the JMU Convocation Center.
W&M improved to 13-8 overall and 5-3 in the CAA after sweeping the season series against JMU, which fell to 8-14 overall and 3-5 in the CAA.
Thornton was 8-for-16 overall and 6-for-9 from the arc while also making all four free-throw attempts to account for his 26 points, the highest opponent point total of the season against JMU. His shooting keyed a 13-for-21 effort (62 percent) from long range for the Tribe.
Graduate forward Andrey Semenov (St. Petersburg, Russia/Blue Ridge School) had a season-high 23 points, eight rebounds and three assists for one of his best games of the season for JMU. He was 5-for-8 from the arc and 8-for-8 at the line.
Sophomore guards Andre Nation (Plant City, Fla./Faith Baptist Christian), Charles Cooke (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic) and Ron Curry (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) joined Semenov in double figures. Nation had 18 points and six rebounds. Cooke tallied 15 points, five steals, four assists and four boards. Curry accumulated a career-high nine assists to go with his 11 points and four boards.
W&M won despite JMU twice fighting back from double-digit deficits. The Tribe led by as many as 16 in the first half at 38-22 and still led by 11 at 46-35 three minutes into the second half when JMU began to build momentum. A layup by Cooke and a three by Semenov got the Dukes rolling to ignite a 14-2 Madison run. A pair of fastbreak buckets by Nation cut a 48-42 deficit to two at 48-46 with 14:19 to go before Curry’s top-of-the-arc 3-pointer gave JMU its only lead of the game.
That lead lasted just 28 seconds as the Tribe tied it with a free throw. The score was knotted at 54-54 with 11:33 to go when a pair of conventional three-point plays by Tim Rusthoven and Omar Prewitt spurred a 14-3 Tribe charge. Thornton added a pair of threes during the spurt.
Trailing 68-57, JMU fought on with a 10-0 run with 1-of-2 free throws by Nation, a putback layup by Nation and an alley-oop dunk by Nation from Curry. Cooke kept the run going with a three-point play and Semenov hit two free throws to make it 68-67 with 3:30 to go at the final media timeout.
After exchanged empty possessions, Thornton hurt the Dukes as he had all game with a right-corner 3-pointer with two minutes remaining to snap the momentum. Two free throws by Daniel Dixon extended the margin to 73-67 with 1:48 to go.
Madison kept pushing as Curry hit a running baseline jumper to make it 73-69, and, after 1-of-2 free throws for the Tribe, Cooke hit another three-point play to make it 74-72 with 1:16 to go. The Dukes forced a turnover on the ensuing in-bounds play but freshman Tom Vodanovich’s (Wellington, New Zealand/St. Patricks College) corner 3-pointer clanged off the rim.
The Tribe used free throws to build the margin back to 79-74 with just 13.3 seconds on the clock, but the Dukes still showed life. Semenov connected on his fifth trey of the night to make it 79-77. After a near-steal by JMU freshman Jackson Kent (High Point, N.C./High Point Christian) and two W&M free throws by Prewitt, Curry drew a foul on a deep right-elbow 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds showing. He made the first two and purposefully missed the third. Semenov was able to track down the rebound on the left baseline, but his fadeaway 18-footer at the buzzer came up short.
Three players joined Thornton in double figures for the Tribe. Rusthoven tallied 16 points, six boards, two blocks and two assists. Brandon Britt was 3-for-4 from the arc with 11 points while Prewitt added 10 points, five assists and two steals.
In addition to the 62-percent sharp-shooting from the arc, W&M shot 56 percent from the field and went 20-for-26 (77 percent) at the foul line. JMU shot 42 percent overall, raising a 35 percent first-half mark to 49 percent in the second half. The Dukes were 7-for-19 (37 percent) on 3-pointers and 18-for-22 (82 percent) on free throws.
JMU registered a season-high 16 assists and a season-low seven turnovers. The Dukes led the Tribe in rebounds 32-25 and gained a 22-11 advantage in points scored off of 15 W&M turnovers. The Tribe led in bench points 29-3, thanks mostly to Britt and Prewitt’s 21 points.
William and Mary rode hot 3-point shooting to build a lead as large as 16 in the first half. With the score 6-4, the Tribe rolled off a 10-2 run for a 16-6 advantage. By the 11-minute mark, the Tribe hit seven of their first 10 attempts from outside while JMU was just 2-for-14 overall from the field as W&M led 27-14.
The lead hit a high of 38-22 when Semenov pulled the Dukes back into the game. He hit a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around a pair of free throws as part of a personal 8-0 run to make it 38-30. However, Thornton buried a shot-clock 3-pointer for the Tribe to account for a 41-30 halftime score.
Britt had 11 in the first half, including 3-for-3 from the arc, and Thornton added 10 as the Tribe collectively went 9-for-13 (69 percent) from downtown. Overall, W&M shot 57 percent in the half compared to 34 percent for the Dukes, who were 3-for-9 from the arc. Semenov led Madison with 12 first-half points.
JMU will be on TV for the sixth time in eight games as the Dukes travel to second-place Towson on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. game at brand-new SECU Arena. The game will air on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, Philadelphia and New England as well as Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast.
NOTES: JMU had won four straight against W&M before being swept in this year’s series.. Curry’s nine assists were three more than his previous career high of six and the most by a JMU player since Devon Moore had 10 last year at Towson on Feb. 12… Semenov moved into third in career games played at JMU with 123, reached eighth in career 3-pointers with 152 and climbed to 21st in career points with 1,117, passing former teammate Denzel Bowles (1,094)… JMU won the opening tip for just the fourth time in 22 games.