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Cavaliers Drive Dukes Out of JPJ With Hail of Bricks

Game Highlights

The Virginia Cavaliers and James Madison Dukes laid enough bricks in their contest at the John Paul Jones Arena to erect rival fortresses, but Virginia carried the day with its interior game, 65-34.  Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key tallied double-doubles, with Mamadi scoring a career high 19 while grabbing a game-leading 13 rebounds, and Key provided supporting fire with 14 points and 10 rebounds, including a personal 7-0 run to start the second half that blew a hole in the Dukes' brick fortress.  It was not long thereafter that the visitors ran up the white flag and Tony Bennett gave his star players some much-needed rest.  Kihei Clark exited the game at the 12-minute time out, Mamadi Diakite followed with nine minutes remaining, and walkon Chase Coleman entered the contest with more than 7 minutes left on the game clock.  The fabled Green Team entertained the Charlottesville crowd with another rendition of The Legend of Grant Kersey - who was ballsy enough to wear Ty Jerome's #11.

The first half was a close battle that James Madison actually led 17-16 almost thirteen minutes in, before a late 9-0 run gave Virginia a double-digit lead that looked like it would be game over.  The Dukes rallied briefly at the end of the half on a Darius Banks three-pointer that sent the Dukes into the locker room down just 8.  The JMU attack was powered by their leader Matt Lewis, the 6-5 junior guard picked by the media as an All-CAA first-teamer.  Lewis is a talented scorer who led JMU with 16 ppg as a sophomore and poured in 22 in his first game this season.  Lewis came out aggressive and used his size advantage when guarded by Kihei Clark on switches (Clark generally took the 6-4 point guard Deshon Parker and did a great job on him).  His third three-pointer of the half in four attempts gave the Dukes their first lead at 15-14, at which point Lewis had 11.

It was all downhill for Lewis after that, however, as Virginia was more careful to keep budding lockdown defender Casey Morsell or 6-7 wing Kody Stattmann on the CAA stud.  It worked, as those two harassed Lewis into an offensive foul, another turnover, a missed layup and 0-2 on three point attempts - all in the last 8 minutes of the first half.  The second half wasn't much better for Lewis, whose only points came on a three-pointer with little more than 5 minutes remaining and his team now down by 25.  He missed his first five shots of the second half.  Stattmann really stood out with his defense, getting down into a wide stance, moving his feet, and using his surprising length and hops to bother shots.

The Cavaliers' offensive performance followed the opposite arc, as they scuffled to 22 points in the first 16 minutes, then bracketed the half with 29 points in the last four minutes of the first half and the first eight of the second.  Diakite was the first half offensive stalwart with 16 points - four of them on two dunks in the late run when the guards finally started penetrating the zone:

Back-to-back dunks on great feeds

Key took over at halftime: He dropped in the first seven points of the second half.  The Hoos broke the Dukes' resistance with a balanced team attack thereafter, slashing the zone for a succession of free throws and dunks, and forcing JMU coach Rowe to come out of the zone and play man-to-man.

"I thought in the second half the guys adjusted well," Tony Bennett said after the game.  "They started being a little more aggressive and not trying to play so perfect and scared, and they punched some gaps.  We moved some pieces around to give some more room, and I thought it was better."  One change was bringing Clark over to the wing area where he was better able to get into the gap.  It worked: while Kihei had two turnovers in the middle of the first half, he finished the game with 6 assists and did not give the ball away in the second half.  His penetration helped Jay Huff and Justin McKoy convert inside buckets, with Huff reaching double-digit points for the second straight game thanks to 4-4 in the second half.  McKoy tallied his first collegiate points on 2-3 second half shooting.  Both of his baskets came from within a few feet of the tin.

While the inside game was relatively efficient again (the Hoos were a blistering 16-24 from inside the arc at Syracuse) at a little over 50%, the three-point shooting continues to be woeful.  The Hoos have gone 4-25 and 4-24 in the first two games.  In both games, the shot selection was awful at times, but even when it improved, good looks turned into ugly shots.  The guards were 1-16 against James Madison after going 4-20 at the Dome.  Two of the players Virginia will be relying on heavily for outside offense, the freshman Morsell and sophomore Stattmann, are 1-11 and 1-9 respectively, and neither player made an outside shot against the Dukes.  Coach Bennett thought the playing time was good for the two players despite the struggles, and wants to see them relax.  "I just want them to play the game.  We sometimes get so obsessed with the shot and this and that.  It's just good for them to be out there and I like to see them make good basketball plays on both ends.  And if it's a quality shot, shoot it in rhythm and take it.  Don't aim it, shoot it.  But play.  Very valuable for Kody and Casey.  This is their first time ever being out there."

Virginia's interior defense was the most impressive phase of the game for either team. While the Dukes shot poorly from the arc - 8-31 - their 25.8% marksmanship there was almost respectable. From inside the arc, however, James Madison was just 4 for 22, or 18%.  This follows a game in which Syracuse was 8 for 26, or 31%.  That means in its first two games, Virginia's interior defense is giving up 25% shooting.  This intimidating performance is enabled by Diakite and Huff playing major minutes thanks to an ability to not foul.  Mamadi has played 35 and 29 minutes with 1 foul per game, and Huff has logged 29 and 26 minutes with only 1 foul in each game as well.  Key has been the perfect support for the two big men with 2 fouls in his 62 minutes.  The three players have grabbed 52 defensive rebounds, meaning they are averaging a hair under 9 defensive rebounds per game per player.

Bennett called the defensive performance "solid."

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