HARRISONBURG — Louis Rowe looked across the court Monday night and saw what he hopes his James Madison team will look like in two or three years.
A veteran Old Dominion squad came to the Convocation Center and imposed its style of play on the Dukes, slowing the pace and hampering JMU’s ability to push the ball in transition. The Dukes were able to grind out stops, but they couldn’t convert them at the other end when reduced into their half-court sets.
Eventually, the Monarchs’ physicality took its toll on JMU, which fell 69-53 in a game that was much closer for long stretches than the final score would indicate.
“We lost tonight to a good team, a team that’s a veteran team, a team that showed us what talented dudes with experience that stick together can do,” Rowe said. “I want these guys to stay together and keep fighting and keep growing. For this team to compete without shots falling, it’s easy when the shots are falling. Shots weren’t falling tonight and we were in a game.”
“I thought our defense stood up for as long as it could stand up,” Rowe added. “You can’t shoot 30 percent against them and expect to win the game.”
JMU (1-1) shot 32.1 percent against ODU, a byproduct of the Dukes’ over reliance on outside shots. The Dukes attempted 16 3-pointers in the first half as they settled for open jump shots instead of trying to run the offense through the post.
When they did try to get touches for the forwards, the Monarachs (2-0) were able to make life difficult for the Dukes inside and altering shots enough that JMU missed looks near the rim. Rowe said he could count at least six chances near the basket that the Dukes missed, including when junior Develle Phillips had the ball stripped as he was going up for a dunk.
Junior guard Stuckey Mosley, who led JMU with 14 points, said he thought ODU didn’t do anything special to disrupt the Dukes’ inside presence, the offense simply stopped feeding the ball down low as often as it should have.
“We need to get them more touches in a game. I feel like that would help our post offense and interior if we can play inside out,” Mosley said. “I don’t think they took away our posts. I don’t think they defended it exceptionally that they took it away, but I just think we need to get them more touches.”
With the jump shots not falling, Mosley and senior Ramone Snowden began attacking the rim more, and even those shots didn’t fall for the Dukes. Snowden scored nine of his 13 points in the second half, and said the coaches were imploring him to be more aggressive and try to find an offensive flow.
“Coach said to be aggressive and get to the paint and stop settling for 3s the whole time,” Snowden said. “We just tried to get to the paint, look for the open man, kick it out if the 3 is open, if not draw a foul and get to the free-throw line.”
Old Dominion started the game by feeding the ball into the paint, running the offense through forwards Trey Porter and Brandan Stith for most of the first half. Stith, who torched the Dukes for 23 points and 11 rebounds in last year’s meeting, scored nine points and grabbed four boards in the first half while controlling the interior.
But the Dukes put a special emphasis shutting down the post in the second half, it was Stith’s brother, B.J., who pushed the Monarchs over the top. B.J. Stith connected on 5-of-8 shots in the second half, including all three of his 3-point attempts for 17 points. He finished with 19 points and said JMU’s determination to limit his brother and Porter gave him more good looks at the basket in the final 20 minutes.
“We made it a point of emphasis to force the ball into Trey and Brandan because we felt like we had a mismatch inside,” B.J. Stith said. “When they took it away, they dared us, forced us, to take outside shots and that’s exactly what we did. They were locked in on Brandan and Trey, and then that allowed other shots, the shots that weren’t open in the first half, to be open in the second half, and we knocked those down.”
Where JMU did have success was on the glass. Although the Dukes were outrebounded 42-29 by the Monarchs, JMU limited Old Dominion to eight offensive rebounds and six second-chance points while collecting 22 defensive boards.
Rowe said his team’s effort and energy on defense was one of the many positives he took from the loss. He said the coaching staff gave the team a goal when it came to offensive rebounds, and the players responded despite the loss.
“Ask them what the first two stats I told them at the end in the locker room,” Rowe said. “For me, there’s a lot to build on and I know the way it looks to the outside world. These guys fought and they battled. We told them under 12 turnovers and 10 offensive rebounds if you want to win the ballgame, and they went out and they did it.”