Next week, George Mason will play at Northeastern (11-5, 6-0) and at Virginia Commonwealth (12-5, 5-1), two teams most likely to challenge the Patriots for the Colonial Athletic Association title. While the players undoubtedly are doing their best to concentrate solely on their next opponent, James Madison, it would be hard not to think about what lies ahead.
Which is why Saturday’s 2 p.m. game against the Dukes at Patriot Center could be a trap for Mason. If the Patriots (13-3, 6-0) are to continue their best CAA start, they can’t be thinking past James Madison, a team they have won eight in a row against – especially considering how well the Dukes are playing.
James Madison (12-6, 4-2) has won four in a row, the Dukes’ longest winning streak in nine years. Their two league losses were to Northeastern and at Towson. They have posted two impressive road wins, a 70-62 victory at Old Dominion and a 74-65 victory at William and Mary.
Picked to finish ninth in the 12 team league, James Madison currently sits fourth in the standings. The Dukes’ competitiveness in the CAA is all the more startling when considering that two players expected to be significant contributors have been sidelined for part or all of the season.
Senior guard Abdulai Jalloh started six games before a partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder sidelined him, likely for the season. Jalloh averaged 15.5 points per game last season for JMU.
Senior forward Juwann James missed seven games earlier in the season with inflammation of the membrane surrounding his heart. James, the co-CAA player of the week, leads the Dukes in scoring at 15.1 points per game despite not starting and playing less than 27 minutes per game.
George Mason, whose defense is holding opponents to under 60 points per game, will face a test in James Madison. The Dukes average 70.5 points per game, fourth best in the CAA, and shoot 46.6 percent from the floor, second best in the CAA. They make more than seven three-pointers a game. But for a team that shoots that many jump shots, JMU is particularly adept at getting to the foul line. The Dukes take nearly 20 free throws per game and make a CAA-best 75.8 percent. Kyle Swanston, Pierre Curtis and Devon More are each shooting better than 80 percent from the line.
January 16, 2009; 6:12 AM ET
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