WILMINGTON,NC (UNCW Sports)–James Madison built a double digit lead in the second half and survived a late charge by UNCW to escape with a 64-60 victory in the Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball home opener for the Seahawks on Thursday night at Trask Coliseum.
The Dukes, employing a zone defense throughout the night, snapped a two-game losing streak to improve to 8-6 overall and 1-2 in the loop. The Seahawks suffered their eighth consecutive loss and stand 5-11 and 0-3.
“Once we starting attacking their zone in the second half, we got good shots,” said C.B. McGrath’s UNCW’s third-year head coach. “We waited too long. You can’t give teams that big a cushion. Give them credit, they did a nice job of slowing us down.”
Junior guard Matt Lewis, a preseason First-Team All-CAA selection, anchored three players in double figures with 15 points for James Madison, which shot 47.1 percent on the night. Sophomore guard Deshon Parker added 13 points and junior forward Dwight Wilson finished with a double-double of 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Sophomore forward Marten Linssen recorded his first career double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Seahawks. The point total was also a career high for the Dusseldorf, Germany, product, the CAA’s field goal percentage leader, who went 9-of-13 from the floor.
Sophomore guard Jaylen Sims scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds and junior guard Mike Okauru contributed 11 points for UNCW.
James Madison scored the final nine points on the first half for a 31-22 advantage at intermission and led by as many as 14 points in the final period before holding off the Seahawks down the stretch.
After freshman forward Julien Wooden dropped in a free throw with 9:56 remaining to give the Dukes a 47-33 cushion, the Seahawks chipped away and made it a one possession game, 62-60, with 12.4 seconds left when Seahawk playmaker Shykeim Phillips connected on a floater in the paint.
Parker then tossed in the first of two free throws to extend the lead to 63-60 with 11 seconds showing and the Dukes fouled Phillips on the next trip down the floor. Phillips missed the front end of a bonus situation, James Madison collected the rebound and tacked on a free throw with three seconds on the clock to seal its third road win of the campaign.
In the first half, the two teams shook off a sluggish start, misfiring on their first nine shots from the floor, and James Madison used a late spurt to take a 31-22 lead into the break.
After Sims scored with just over 15 minutes left in the opening period, the Dukes reeled off seven unanswered points to take the lead for good. Zach Jacobs capped the spurt with a jumper in the paint at 11:55 remaining to give the Dukes an 11-9 edge.
JMU kept the advantage for the remainder of the period and closed out the half with a 9-0 run for its 11-point cushion. Lewis sank a long three-pointer from the top of the key with one second left in the half to give the Dukes a double digit lead at intermission.
The Seahawks close out their CAA home stand on Saturday with a 7 p.m. tip-off against Towson.