By: Brooks Warren, Staff Writer
File Photo by: Brendan Felch/The Towerlight
Despite a 21-point lead early on by the Tigers, James Madison kept it competitive and the game came down to the final seconds. But redshirt junior guard Kionna Jeter came up clutch and hit a game-winning jump shot to give Towson a 76-75 victory.
The final frame was a back-and-forth affair, as the Dukes took their first lead of the evening off a layup. That started a tug of war for momentum with the lead changing eight times in the last six minutes of the game.
The Dukes took their final lead of the afternoon soon after hitting a pair of free throws with six seconds left. During a timeout, head coach Diane Richardson dialed up a play they call “Blast” that James Madison anticipated, senior guard Q. Murray directed Jeter to the right corner.
Jeter beat her defender to the rim for a layup to give the Tigers a one-point lead with about two seconds left to go. On the following play, Dukes senior guard Kamiah Smalls received the ball on the right side of the basket and short-armed a fadeaway over the hands of Murray that clanged mercifully off the rim to secure the Towson win.
“I was supposed to come up but Q [Murray] directed me to the corner because they already anticipated where we’re going,” Jeter said. “So I did and I saw the opening to the left so I took it.”
James Madison outscored the Tigers in the third quarter 20-13 and cut the Towson lead to 58-55 heading into the fourth quarter.
The third quarter was a sharp contrast to the first two quarters, as the Tigers quickly built their 21 point lead. In the 15-minutes of game time it took Towson to build this lead, senior forward Nukiya Mayo scored eight consecutive points, including back-to-back 3-pointers, to give the Tigers the biggest lead of the game.
Richardson wanted to see her team get off to a fast start and emphasized the importance of doing so against the Dukes.
“We’ve been trying to throw the first punch all season,” Richardson said. “And today they decided, you know what, we definitely can’t sit back on a team like JMU and took it upon themselves to go out strong. ”
Jeter finished with a game best 27 points, six assists, and seven rebounds. Senior guard Nukiya Mayo recorded a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Entering the game, Towson was 0-2 in the CAA and needed a win to stay afloat in the conference.
“We needed this win,” Jeter said. “It was a major win for us and I just did what my teammates needed me to do. We didn’t give up, we punched first, they kind of came back but we didn’t give up.”
Frequently, Jeter was shouting directions at teammates while going back on defense or while James Madison shot free throws. Murray tapped her chest or the head of teammates for not getting the ball to them quicker. This communication was a key for Richardson and she was glad to see it executed.
“It was huge, and we’ve been talking about that plan for us all week,” Richardson said. “They were talking, the assists showed you they were looking for their teammates. If you’re not open someone on the team is.”
The Tigers travel to Charleston on Friday, Jan. 17. Tipoff against the Cougars is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
“I’ve been trying to get them to play like this all season,” Richardson said. “We’re gonna look at some film so they can see it with their own eyes that when we play that up-tempo style we can do some great things. And they were great today, they were absolutely great.”