2005-06 Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at James Madison

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Virginia Tech will look to get back to their winning ways on Monday afternoon when they travel to Harrisonburg to take on the James Madison Dukes at 4 pm. The Hokies are coming off a 58-55 defeat at the hands of Old Dominion in which they played poorly on the offensive end and did not shoot well from the free throw line. This will be Tech’s final out-of-conference game, and it is important that they get things back on track before playing 15 consecutive ACC games to end the season.

Despite being so close geographically, this is just the second meeting between Virginia Tech and James Madison since 1990. The Hokies defeated the Dukes 77-53 in Cassell Coliseum last season. JMU is coached by Dean Keener, a former assistant at Virginia Tech under Bill Foster and Bobby Hussey. Keener is also a former assistant at Georgia Tech and coached for the Yellow Jackets in the national championship game two years ago.

James Madison is 3-6 on the season and has suffered through a few close defeats. They opened the season by playing Georgetown tough, falling 73-66. They also lost by three to Northeastern and by seven to Youngstown State. They have been struggling lately, losing five of their last six games, with their only victory over Yale, 79-69. The Dukes are coming off a terrible performance against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, losing 93-52.

JMU’s leading scorer is 6-8, 205 forward Cavell Johnson. Johnson is averaging 13.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. However he has been suspended for the past two games for a violation of team rules, and it is unclear whether or not he will play against the Hokies. His absence would hurt the Dukes on the inside against the Hokies.

James Madison’s best player appears to be 6-6, 220 freshman forward Juwann James. James has been very effective on the inside in his first season as a college player, averaging 13 points and nine rebounds per game. A good finisher on the inside, James is shooting 53% from the field on the season.

Guards Ray Barbosa, Jomo Belfor and Daniel Freeman also average double figures for the Dukes at 11.7, 11.1 and 10.7 points per game respectively. Four of JMU’s five starters average at least 30 minutes per game, so don’t look for them to be able to wear the Hokies down.

JMU’s biggest player is 6-11, 250 center Gabriel Chami. Chami only plays 10.6 minutes per game and averages 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds. When he is not in the game, the Hokies will hold the size advantage over the Dukes, so look for Coleman Collins to become a factor following a subpar performance against Old Dominion.

The Dukes have struggled offensively this season. They are averaging just 68.3 points per game against subpar competition for the most part, and they are hitting just 40.5% of their shots from the field. They are not afraid to step out and shoot the three-pointer, and they have managed to hit 34.5% of their shots from downtown this season. They are a below average free throw shooting team at 65.6%.

Opponents are shooting 44.1% against James Madison and converting 33.3% of their three-pointers. They are giving up 74.6 points per game, although that is slightly skewed thanks to their lackluster performance against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The Dukes are outrebounding opponents 37.2 to 35.9, but that stat won’t have a chance of standing up against the Hokies if Cavell Johnson does not play.

The Dukes have had a problem handing the basketball this year, committing 160 turnovers while registering 132 assists. The Hokies have the advantage in talent and athleticism, and should be motivated because a road win would help them in the RPI. If Virginia Tech comes to play, they should leave Harrisonburg with a relatively easy victory.

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