“He’s coming into his own. Let’s be honest,” Dukes coach Louis Rowe said of the 6-foot-9 senior, who considered leaving early for the NBA after last season but decided to return. “Great in space, moves really well, comfortable at his position at 15 to 17 feet. Opened the game with a three. Rips and drives. Great finisher around the rim. Haw good feel/ Do you want any more? He’s very, very good.”
The Cavaliers (2-0) led by just 22-20 until Kihei Clark’s 3-pointer started a 9-0 burst for Virginia. A 3-pointer by Darius Banks ended that, making it 31-23 at the half, and Rowe was pleased at the break.
That changed quickly after halftime.
“Thet ratcheted it up,” he said. “They turned it up at every level.”
Braxton Key scored seven straight for the Cavaliers. After Zach Jacobs’ 3-pointer for JMU, Virginia reeled off 13 more points to lead 51-26 with just under 12 minutes to play.
Key finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds and, like Diakite, spent most of the last 10 minutes watching. Jay Huff added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Matt Lewis led James Madison (1-1) with 14 points, 11 in the first half. The Dukes shot just 24%, making 12 of 50 shots. They turned the ball over 19 times, leading to 18 Virginia points.
James Madison: The Dukes were without 6-foot-8 Dwight Wilson, their top rebounder, and acquitted themselves well for a time against Virginia’s front line other than Diakite, a freakish athlete whose quickness around the basket will give lots of big men trouble. That size won out after halftime.
Virginia: The Cavaliers are still clearly working on finding an offensive identity. They scored just 48 points and had 16 turnovers in their opener at Syracuse, but limited the Orange to just 34 points, the 24th time in Bennett’s 11 seasons they have held an opponent to 40 points or fewer. The Dukes, then became the 25th team.
Most of the Cavaliers 3-point shooting left when De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy all left early for the NBA after last season, and it’s showing early as the Cavaliers struggle making 3-pointers.
Through two games, they are 8 for 49.
Hughly regarded Virginia freshman Casey Morsell missed all nine of his field goal tries against JMU and is 1 for 15 in two games. Kody Stattmann, who played sparingly last season. was 2 for 9 and is now 4 for 13 in two games.
“We know that both are elite shooters,” Kihei Clark said. “It’s both rally their first year getting on the floor really playing big minutes. Just tell them to keep shooting.”
James Madison is back at home to face Shenandoah on Wednesday night.
Virginia remains at home and faces Columbia next Saturday.