Happy new year to everyone! If there's one thing I wish I could share with others, it would be this - you don't have to wait until January 1 to make changes in your life for the better.
Monday (January 2) marks the start of the full CAA conference schedule. Old Dominion travels across Virginia to take on James Madison University following its 75-68 loss to #8 Missouri. The Monarchs led at halftime (the first time the Tigers trailed at the half all season), and were tied with less than 90 seconds remaining.
This is arguably the most important game on ODU's schedule. Of course they need a win, but it's more about the effort and concentration. I could go into stats like the leading scorer/rebounder/key role players on the team, but I partially already did that before the Missouri game. This game is not about individuals, though - it's about the team's effort. Here's why.
Following a close loss to #2 Kentucky on November 20, they lost in overtime to Vermont at home. To be frank, against the Catamounts, they looked like a team that had forgotten how to win. If they play with the same intensity against the Dukes (7-4, 1-0) as they did against the Tigers, I think a lot of fans will feel better about the team's chances the rest of the season. The team that played Missouri to the end looked like a team that had its identity back.
Rob from JMUSportsBlog.com, who is also one of several participants in the CAA Bloggers Power Poll, was kind enough to answer some questions about JMU this season. Below are the questions and his responses.
1. This season AJ Davis (16.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game) and Humpty Hitchens (16.2 PPG, team-high 46 assists) are the statistical leaders of the team. Which player or players do/does things that don’t show up in the box score that have helped JMU to its 7-4 start?
I'd like to say Julius Wells, who had me thinking that he might have bought into his role as the "glue guy" instead of a scorer a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, he's been the Julius of old too many times launching ill-advised threes. I'm going to say Alioune Diouf. He's a Junior who was supposed to red-shirt this season. Due to Goins injury and Moore's ineligibility they opted to play him over Thanksgiving break in Philly. He's been playing as if he wants to prove to everyone that they never should have considered sitting him out. He doesn't do anything spectacularly, but he plays with a lot of energy and works hard defensively.
2. What has been James Madison’s best win to date? What has been their worst loss?
Best win is debatable, but I'm going to go with Penn. Penn isn't great, but the game was at the Palestra and the Dukes got it down with a big defensive stop at the end. As fans of CAA hoops know, defense hasn't exactly been a strong suit of JMU's in recent years, so it was a satisfying win. The best they've actually played was in the first half against GW.
The worst loss has to be this week's disaster against Rhode Island. They got beat in every phase of the game by a terrible team.
3. Head coach Matt Brady has had a couple years now to recruit players to play his own brand of basketball. How would you describe the style of play that he wants to play? (For example, Blaine Taylor emphasizes defense and rebounding, Shaka Smart emphasizes “havoc,” etc.)
Well if you talk to Brady, he preaches defense and rebounding. We have yet to see much of either during his tenure however. What we have seen is a coach who tries to put his 5 best players on the court together regardless of position, and let them try to beat their opponent athletically. This year's team is still no defensive juggernaut, but guys like Humpty and Devon certainly appear to buy into playing tough on both ends far more than Denzel Bowles ever did.
4. Other than the obvious Kent Culuko CAA tournament game, what is your best memory of JMU basketball against ODU?
Honestly, other than the Culuko buzzer-beater, no one moment sticks out more than any other. That shot was my freshman year and I remember the excitement in the Convo the next few years whenever ODU came to town to play Lefty's teams. The Dukes slumped my senior year, but for the first 3 years they actually were really good and the match-ups with ODU were played in front of really big and enthusiastic crowds. I think ODU won the CAA my sophomore and junior years. Those games were the best times I had watching sports in college. It was a treat getting to watch guys like Lou Rowe and Culuko for the Dukes and Odell Hodge for ODU.