CHARLESTON, S.C., Jan. 7, 2014 – Reserve guard Nori Johnson’s second-half barrage as part of an 18-point night keyed a 12-0 run following a 49-49 tie and Anthony Stitt tallied a career-high 23 points to lead the College of Charleston to a 75-61 win over James Madison in a Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball game Tuesday night at TD Arena.
CofC won its first game as a member of the CAA to improve to 9-7 overall with its fourth straight victory. The Cougars won for the seventh time in its last nine games. JMU fell to 6-10 overall and 1-1 in the CAA while having its three-game winning streak snapped. The Dukes had won their last five games against conference opponents.
Stitt and Johnson combined to go 10-for-17 from the arc as part of Charleston’s 12-for-23 night from the arc. The .522 percentage was a season-best for the Cougars, who were .299 from the arc for the season entering the night. Stitt had four threes in the first half, including a stretch of three in three straight possessions before Johnson accomplished the same in the second half.
Sophomore guard Charles Cooke (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic) tallied his sixth 20-point effort in the last nine games with 21 points and six rebounds. Graduate forward Andrey Semenov (St. Petersburg, Russia/Blue Ridge School) added 19 points while moving into the top 10 at JMU with 117 career games played and into 23rd in career points with 1,057. The two players combined to go 13-for-22 (.591) from the field while the rest of the Dukes were 9-for-32 (.281).
In addition to Stitt and Johnson, Anthony Thomas had his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Cougars. Joe Chealey added 12 points. National Player of the Week Willis Hall, who had 44 points and 38 rebounds in his last two games, was held to two points on 0-for-7 shooting and nine rebounds.
JMU trailed at the break 38-31 but clawed its way back to tie the score at 49-49 on Semenov’s three-pointer with just under 12 minutes remaining. However, the Dukes turned it over on their next three possessions and Charleston scored six points to reclaim the lead at 55-49.
The run continued as Johnson took over with a pair of three-pointers to make it a 12-0 push for a 61-49 lead. Sophomore guard Ron Curry (Pennsauken, N.J./Paul VI) hit a three to snap five scoreless minutes for the Dukes, but Johnson added his third straight three to prevent the Dukes from building any momentum. The Dukes never broke double figures as CofC pulled away for the 75-61 win.
In addition to the outside edge, CofC also separated itself with a 44-27 advantage in rebounds. The Cougars shot 42 percent overall with JMU just behind at 40.7 percent. The Dukes were 8-for-18 from the outside but just 9-for-16 from the foul line, including 4-for-10 second half.
Charleston grabbed the early lead on made three-pointers on three straight possessions by Stitt for a 9-3 lead. The Dukes kept it close with Nation making his debut at the 17-minute mark and hitting his first basket with a three at the 16-minute mark to cut it to an 11-10 deficit.
Offense ruled the first 10 minutes of play as Charleston led 24-22 while shooting 8-for-14 overall and 5-of-6 from the arc. JMU was 9-for-14 overall and 2-for-3 from the outside. The Cougars used a 7-0 run to build some space at 28-22 before Semenov snapped the spurt with a rare four-point play.
Both teams finally went cold at the eight-minute mark with four and a half minutes of the score stuck at 30-26 Charleston before the Cougars scored with three and a half to go. JMU’s dry spell lasted until the 1:44 spot as Semenov’s two free throws cut into CofC’s largest lead of the game to make it 35-28.
Cooke connected on a three to quickly cut it further to 35-31, but Stitt hit his fourth three of the half at the buzzer to extend the halftime margin to 38-31 in favor of Charleston.
Both teams cooled off as Charleston shot 40 percent for the half with JMU at 39.3 percent. The 7-for-12 outside shooting for the Cougars was the difference as half of their 14 field goals came from the arc.
Stitt led all scorers with 14 first-half points. Semenov had 11 for JMU while Cooke had nine and Nation had seven.
JMU returns home for its third contest of the season at the Convocation Center in its 17th game overall. In their CAA home opener, the Dukes will host Delaware at 4 p.m. in a game to be televised on Comcast Mid-Atlantic, Philadelphia and New England as well as Comcast Charter Sports Southeast (CSS) and SportsNet New York (SNY).