Red-hot No. 18 James Madison heads to Old Dominion

James Madison's head coach Mark Byington talks to a referee during the first half in the game against Michigan State on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in East Lansing.

The mission for No. 18 James Madison is to avoid complacency as it tries to extend the program’s first-ever stay in the rankings.

Overconfidence shouldn’t be an issue for James Madison (8-0) as it travels to long-time rival Old Dominion (3-5) for its Sun Belt Conference opener on Saturday night in Norfolk, Va.

The Dukes and Monarchs are former members of the Colonial Athletic Association with a long history. Last year, they were reunited when they both joined the Sun Belt.

Old Dominion leads the series 58-30 but James Madison has won the last four matchups, all by single-digit margins.

The Monarchs are geared up for revenge, declaring Saturday as a white-out game.

“We’re a marked team right now,” James Madison coach Mark Byington said. “I’m anticipating that Old Dominion crowd being one of the toughest we play all year.”

The Dukes enter with plenty of rest. In their last game, a 130-59 blowout of Division III Keystone (Pa.) on Sunday, none of their starters were on the floor for more than 21 minutes.

Michael Green III paced James Madison with 21 points. Terrence Edwards Jr. and Jaylen Carey each scored 16 points as all 15 Dukes contributed at least two points.

T.J. Bickerstaff led James Madison to an overwhelming 67-18 edge on the boards. He needed just 16 minutes of floor time to notch a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Byington was more impressed with Bickerstaff’s care of the ball.

“It’s great when your center has five assists and no turnovers,” the fourth-year coach said.

The offensive splurge lifted James Madison to the top spot on the NCAA team scoring list at 95.4 points per game.

Coming off a 19-12 season, Old Dominion has struggled a bit to start this season and enters Saturday’s contest on a two-game losing skid. That run includes an 84-79 loss Wednesday at William & Mary.

The Monarchs were done in by the long-range marksmanship of the Tribe, who hit 15 of 31 shots (48.4 percent) from beyond the arc.

William & Mary won despite dressing just eight players and using seven.

“Kudos to William & Mary,” Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones said. “If it wasn’t for the fact that they kicked our butts, I would say it was a lot of fun watching a team that was undermanned in terms of healthy bodies.”

The silver lining for the Monarchs was the performance of freshman Vasean Allette, who scored a career-high 30 points on 13-of-19 shooting from the floor.

Allette teams in the backcourt with Old Dominion’s top scorer, Chaunce Jenkins, and Oregon transfer Tyrone Williams. Jenkins averages 16.4 points per game and Williams contributes 11.9 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds.

Based on their performance against one common opponent, the Dukes can’t dismiss the Monarchs.

Old Dominion’s last win came at home over Radford, 69-68, on Nov. 29. Twelve days earlier, the Highlanders also took James Madison to the wire in a 76-73 decision.

“I know they’ve been excited about our game and it’s a really good team, good coach,” Byington said. “Great intra-state game. It’s a little odd playing in December but here we go.”

–Field Level Media

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