Friday, March 22, 2013

WNIT: And then there was one (JMU)

Three teams in Virginia began pursuit of WNIT glory Thursday night.

One survived. Thanks to the sparkplug efforts of freshman point guard Muff Mickens, JMU finally shook free of pesky North Carolina A&T 77-64 to move into the WNIT second round.

Meanwhile, Old Dominion and Richmond saw their seasons end.

The Dukes almost suffered the same fate. With Amber Calvin leading the way with 7 3-pointers, the North Carolina A&T's Lady Aggies shot lights-out, built a 13-point first-half lead and were still up nine with 12:46 left. But Mickens energized a Dukes surge with passing and scoring at one end and in-your-face defense on Calvin at the other. JMU coach Kenny Brooks said Mickens asked to guard Calvin, which is a pretty cocky thing for a freshman reserve to do. But she pulled it off brilliantly, even thrilling the crowd of 1,285 by blocking one of Calvin's shots and finishing off the possession with a contested layup. Mickens finished with career highs of 10 points, 5 assists and 5 steals in a performance that validated her standing as a national Top 100 recruit. Mickens endured an uneven rookie season. But if the light has indeed come on and this is the type of effort she will deliver, the Dukes have another major weapon.

By the way, Kirby Burkholder went off for 22 points and 14 rebounds and Tarik Hislop chipped in 17 points and a season-high 7 assists. Big-time numbers, no doubt. But with all due respect, this was the Muff Mickens Show - arriving at JMU just in time.

Next up for the Dukes is N.C. State on Sunday at 2 p.m., again at the JMU Convocation Center. Brooks praised his administration for continuing to produce successful bids to host these postseason games. Considering how well the Dukes perform before the home fans, it's been money well spent - JMU is 14-0 in home NCAA and WNIT contests.

Stay tuned for more on the season finales of Richmond and Old Dominion.

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