I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Wednesday’s play-in game between Long Island and James Madison. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.
Three Key Takeaways:
- JMU Won the Tempo Battle — Long Island likes to play at a breakneck pace, ranking in the top 30 in the country in tempo and routinely scoring in the 80s or 90s. At yesterday’s pregame press conference, James Madison coach Matt Brady emphasized the importance of slowing the game, and the Dukes largely succeeded. LIU scored just 55 points, its lowest total of the season, and the game ended with about 60 possessions per team, also quite low by LIU’s standards. And though the Blackbirds managed to get out on the break here and there, JMU was almost as effective in transition, particularly during a critical 9-0 second half run when they erased LIU’s only lead of the game with four straight transition buckets.
- No Rayshawn, No Matter — JMU’s leading scorer, forward Rayshawn Goins, was suspended for the first half tonight, the fallout of a Sunday evening arrest that put a damper on the Dukes’ otherwise exciting Selection Sunday. The odd half-game suspension and the effect on the team was a major pre-game storyline, but proved to be largely irrelevant. JMU more than compensated for Goins’ absence in the first half with its stellar shooting, and in the second half, Goins’ contributions were marginal. Though he pulled down eight rebounds, he struggled to score and looked out of sync on offense for much of the half. He finished with just four points.
- LIU Couldn’t Find the Right Defensive Formula — Though Long Island scores a lot of points, they also give up a lot of points. They don’t stop shots, they don’t force turnovers, and they don’t rebound well. And tonight, they just couldn’t find the right defensive formula. They alternated between man and zone defenses in the first half, but no matter what they tried, the Dukes were able to crack it with their great shooting, hitting several jump shots and knocking down 40 percent of their threes en route to a 32-31 halftime lead. In the second half, the Blackbirds relied primarily on a zone, and while the Dukes’ outside shooting cooled a bit, they held their lead by dominating the glass, rebounding 55.5 percent of their own misses. At the end of the day, it’s tough to win an NCAA Tournament game with a defense ranked outside the top 300.
Star of the Game: After averaging 15.9 points per game last year, JMU senior guard A.J. Davis struggled to find consistency for much of this season. He scored in double figures in just nine of his first 25 games, but since then, he’s hit double digits nine straight times. His offensive resurgence continued tonight, as he led the Dukes with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-10 from three-point range. Davis also stuffed the stat sheet with five rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block.