Sunday, November 13, 2011

JMU's Brooks collects 200th victory in 2OT

It wasn't easy - and it definitely wasn't pretty - but James Madison outlasted American 68-64 in double-overtime to hand coach Kenny Brooks his 200th career victory. The 42-year-old Brooks is now 200-87 since taking over the Dukes in 2002.

"To have 200 wins under your belt, it means a lot," Brooks said in the school's official release.  "It really speaks volumes about the kind of athletes you have and that have come through your program.  It's taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to this point, but the team played hard all game to get this win."

The victory came four years to the day - Nov. 13, 2007 - Brooks collected win No. 100, a 73-53 decision at Bucknell. Other similarities:

- The 2007 decision boosted the Dukes' record to 2-0; the 2011 win over American improved the Dukes' record to 2-0;

- The 2007 Dukes won despite 32.9-percent shooting; the 2011 Dukes prevailed despite 32.4-percent shooting.

The main difference, or course, is that Brooks had to sweat bullets throughout this one. Tarik Hislop scored all five of the Dukes' points in the final thee minutes of the second overtime, including the jumper with 2:56 to play that gave JMU the lead for good at 65-64. Hislop finished with 22 points, but the revelation continues to be sophomore Kirby Burkholder. During the preseason, Brooks indicated that Burkholder, who played sparingly last season, figured to play a significant role in 2011-12. But we're not sure even Brooks was penciling her in for the 19-point, 12-rebound effort she turned in against American. Burkholder now has 29 points in two games, or two less than she scored all of last season.

Given that so many players are adjusting to new roles, it's hardly surprising these Dukes are far from sharp. But because of their determined second effort (21 offensive rebounds) and a willingness to shrug off mistakes and keep playing, the Dukes have picked up two solid road victories.

Can't wait to see what it looks like when they really figure things out.

In other action Sunday:

Longwood 68, Cornell 61
Don't mess with the Lancers in their own building. Longwood has now won four straight at home and is 14-12 at Willett Hall since the start of the 2009-10 season (vs. 3-28 when the Lancers play anywhere else). The Big Red led by eight at halftime and were still up by a point with 2:10 to play before the Lancers seized command for good. Junior college transfer Mieke Elkington led the way with 14 points and 7 rebounds, but Brittanni Billups (12), Mina Jovanovic (11) and Chelsea Coward (11) also had starring roles for a Longwood team that, after Friday's close loss to Georgetown, sport a very encouraging 1-1 record.

George Mason 59, Oakland 48
The Patriots (1-1) are another team that feasts on early-season home cooking - this victory made them 13-1 in non-conference home games since 2009-10 began. Once again, Amber Easter and Taleia Moton (11 points each) assumed the bulk of the scoring load. But unlike in Friday's four-point loss at American, several other Patriots chipped in offensively, too. Even so, this is never going to be an offensive juggernaut (Easter and Moton, for example, combined to make just 7 of 31 shots). Defense and rebounding were this team's calling cards against Oakland, and will likely be all season. If the Patriots can use what they do well to generate a transition game and some easy baskets, they'll be tough to beat. By the way, Oakland didn't really look like the eighth-best "mid-major" team in the country as ESPN forecast, but the Golden Grizzlies will likely win a bunch of games in the Summit League. And if they do, this victory will look even better in March than it does today.

Georgia Tech 87, Old Dominion 56
Here's all the analysis you really need - The Yellow Jackets scored 32 points off 31 ODU turnovers. In fairness to the Lady Monarchs, these Yellow Jackets (2-0) are capable of doing this to seasoned, veteran teams, so a group in its second game with a new coach, a short bench and a true freshman point guard is really up against it. We suspect the numbers turned in by Tia Lewis (9 points, 7 turnovers) and Ashley Betz-White (1-of-11 shooting, 8 turnovers) were a direct result of where the Yellow Jackets were focusing their defensive attention, and that they were willing to live with Shakeva Richards (a career-high 16 points) getting hers. But hey, the hope is that, going forward, ODU will be a better team after having faced an opponent of this caliber. Fortunately, it'll be a while before the Lady Monarchs (0-2) go up against anyone quite so...what's that? They go to Stanford Thursday? Oh.

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