FARMVILLE, Va. – On a night when Longwood University honored its most prominent athletics alumnus, Jerome Kersey, by naming its home court in his honor, it was the opposition who channeled the former Lancer’s trademark rebounding and physicality.
After a pregame ceremony in which the Lancers (2-4) officially dedicated “Jerome Kersey Court” inWillett Hall, James Madison used a plus-20 rebounding margin to hold off Longwood, 71-59, Saturday night in the Lancers’ first game on the newly named hardwood.
The Colonial Athletic Association powerhouse Dukes (1-7) outrebounded their eighth straight opponent thanks to a 13-rebound performance from 6-7, 220-pound senior Tom Vodanovich, en route to their first win under first-year head coach Louis Rowe. Vodanovich added seven points and played a supporting role to Dukes sharpshooter Jackson Kent, who poured in a game-high 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including a perfect 5-of-5 performance from three-point range.
“So many phenomenal things happened this weekend, and I was certainly planning on putting an exclamation point on the evening, but it just didn’t happen,” said fourth-year Longwood head coach Jayson Gee. “I’ll give James Madison credit; our biggest concern was their ability to rebound the basketball. If you look at the stats, they had 47 rebounds to our 27. Their size and physicality eventually wore us down.”
With Longwood’s 6-8 redshirt junior captain Damarion Geter sidelined indefinitely with a broken foot, Vodanovich, and 6-6, 230-pound redshirt Ramone Snowden controlled the glass, combining for 21 rebounds. They were able to hold in check Longwood redshirt junior forward Khris Lane, who entered the matchup averaging a team-best 8.8 rebounds but managed just six boards and eight points on the night.
With Lane neutralized, Kent and Dalembert also muscled their way to a pair of near double-doubles with seven and six rebounds, respectively. Twenty-eight of James Madison’s points came in the paint, while 10 were off second-chance points.
“Two things I thought prevented us from getting over the hump,” Gee said. “One was when we played good defense, they got offensive rebounds. I was very pleased with 10 turnovers for us, but I thought we had some really untimely turnovers that limited our runs as well.”
Along with their work on the glass, the Dukes turned in one of their best defensive efforts of the season, holding Longwood to .377 (23-of-61) shooting from the field. Longwood had just two double-digit scorers for the first time all season with senior Darrion Allen leading the way with 13 points, his sixth straight double-digit scoring game.
The key to James Madison’s defensive effort was eliminating the penetration that allowed Longwood to put up 86 points in this past Monday’s win over Dartmouth. The Dukes fronted Longwood’s drivers and forced the Lancers to settle for a season-high 26 shots from three-point range, of which Longwood hit just nine.
Four of those came from the hot hand of Lancer point guard Kendrick Thompson, who scored all of his career-high 12 points in the first half but went scoreless after halftime.
“Because they clogged up the driving lanes so much, we shot a bunch of threes and didn’t shoot a great percentage,” Gee said. “Had we shot a great percentage, maybe that would have been something, but I think the difference in the game was our inability to rebound the basketball.
“Our bigger guys, Damarion Geter and Jahleem Montague, are on crutches, and there’s not a lot we can do about that. We gave Obi Romeo some spot minutes, and he’s still improving. He can get a lot better. But we are who we are. I don’t know if rebounding will ever be a strength of this team, but we have to find a way to close the gap.”
That 20-rebound gap left little room for error for a Longwood team that got just four second-chance points on six offensive rebounds all night. The Lancers took care of the basketball on the offensive end, committing a season-low 10 turnovers, but the Dukes negated that positive by grabbing 33 of Longwood’s 38 missed shots.
Longwood cut James Madison’s lead to as little as four points with 7:04 remaining in the second half after a layup from Lane but saw that deficit balloon back to double digits after James Madison rattled off eight straight points. Longwood missed consecutive shots during that span, both of which Vodanovich grabbed and the Dukes converted into field goals on the other end.
Before the end of the game, Longwood paid one last homage to Kersey before the final whistle in the form of a monstrous one-handed jam from freshman forward JaShaun Smith, who threw it down for Longwood’s last points of the night. The dunk continued a trend of strong starts for Smith, who poured in nine points, grabbed three rebounds and added two blocks and a three-pointer across a career-high 30 minutes.
The loss snaps a two-game home win streak for the Lancers, who will now have a week to prepare for their second nationally televised game of the season on Dec. 9 at undefeated and 10th-rankedCreighton. That game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. EST on Omaha, Neb., and puts Longwood back in the national spotlight after the Lancers nearly upset Stephen F. Austin in a 66-60 loss on ESPN2 on Nov. 15.
“We have to put a lot of energy and effort on this game coming up,” said redshirt sophomore point guard Bryan Gee, who started and dished two assists without a turnover in 17 minutes Saturday. “Normally with big games like this, a lot of people just step up. People play with a lot of energy and effort, so that’s what we’re expecting for this game.”