ORONO, Maine — It probably wouldn’t be obvious to the casual fan, but James Madison is rebuilding this season.
Thursday night, the Dukes demonstrated that they might lack some experience, but they have considerable talent on their roster.
James Madison demonstrated superior overall quickness, size and interior play Thursday night, posting a 64-47 women’s basketball victory over the University of Maine at Memorial Gymnasium.
“That’s what a Division I team looks like,” UMaine coach Richard Barron said after the contest.
The Dukes (6-1) harassed the Black Bears (3-6) into many of their 24 turnovers with aggressive defense that was the difference in the contest.
James Madison scored only 17 points off UMaine turnovers, but the Dukes had too much size and athleticism inside. The Dukes outscored the Bears 42-26 in the paint.
“I thought they certainly hurt us on the boards and with their pressure defense,” Barron said.
UMaine turned the ball over 16 times in the first half alone, which led to some good scoring opportunities for the Dukes of the Colonial Athletic Association.
“We weren’t really poised and in control when we had the ball,” said senior Samantha Wheeler, who sparked UMaine with a game-high 18 points, 16 of which came in the second half.
“We just didn’t take care of it the way that we know we should have, no matter who is defending us,” added Wheeler, who went 8-for-8 from the foul line and grabbed six rebounds.
Senior forward Samantha Baranowski contributed eight points, all in the first half, and seven rebounds for the Bears.
Jasmine Gill (eight rebounds) and Tarik Hislop tossed in 13 points each to lead the Dukes, while Lauren Whitehurst added 11 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. Nikki Newman posted nine points, eight rebounds, three assists, four steals and four blocked shots.
James Madison finished with 13 steals and 11 blocks. The Dukes lost four key seniors off last year’s team.
“They’re working hard,” Dukes coach Kenny Brooks said. “Any time you can continue to win and be 6-1 while you’re still trying to figure it out, it’s a plus.”
The Bears trailed 34-17 at halftime, but made a brief challenge early in the second half.
Wheeler scored the first six points of the period on a baseline scoop shot, an offensive rebound and two free throws to get UMaine within 11 at 34-23 with 16:44 left.
However, the Dukes’ domination in the paint, including several of their 19 offensive rebounds, helped JMU restore a more comfortable advantage.
UMaine outrebounded JMU 46-44 and had 18 second-chance points to 13 for the Dukes. JMU wound up with only 11 turnovers, but the Bears turned them into 13 points.
The Dukes were in control from the outset as they pressured the Bears and were rewarded by forcing several turnovers. The Dukes cashed in with some quick-strike baskets in transition.
JMU scored 11 points off turnovers in the half and outscored UMaine in the paint 22-12.
Already leading 13-6, the Dukes put together a 13-2 run that gave them a healthy cushion.
Kirby Burkholder opened the spurt with a foul-line jumper, then Whitehurst provided a free throw and a seven-footer from the lane off an inbounds play. Burkholder followed with a layup off a Newman steal to make it 20-6 with 11:52 left in the half.
UMaine broke the run on Baranowski’s close-range bucket off a Wheeler feed, but Debbie Smith sandwiched two hoops from the paint around Gill’s driving layup as JMU made it 26-8 with 8:49 to play in the half.
“I thought we did a great job in the beginning of putting pressure on them, taking them out of their rhythm,” said Brooks. “In the process, we got a couple of steals that led to some easy baskets for us. It set the tone for us.”