NCAAB: No. 22 James Madison chasing improvement vs. Division III Keystone


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No. 22 James Madison is focused on making progress regardless of the situation it finds itself in.

Sometimes the situation ends up being a meeting with a Division III opponent, which is exactly what the Dukes will be up against when they face Keystone College in Harrisonburg, Va., on Sunday afternoon.

“My favorite thing is improving,” James Madison coach Mark Byington said. “I don’t get caught up in results. We’ve got to keep getting better because our biggest tests are coming later on.”

JMU (7-0) has been one of the most surprising teams in the nation through the first month of the season. It most recently beat Buffalo 81-66 on Wednesday, getting 18 points from T.J. Bickerstaff and 15 from Terrence Edwards Jr.

The Dukes committed a season-low eight turnovers against the Bulls, but there were still shortcomings from the victory that Byington plans on addressing.

“We have to learn from wins and learn from things we didn’t do very well,” Byington said. “What we have to do as a coaching staff is get our guys’ attention right now. We better get it fixed quickly and hopefully we’ll be better on Sunday.”

Byington pointed to some unsatisfying practice sessions since the Dukes returned from the Cancun Challenge in Mexico.

“We were not ourselves,” Byington said. “We never really played great (to extend an early lead in the Buffalo game). Our intensity and focus that we’ve had going into the other games, it wasn’t the same. We had some moments, but not consistency.”

Byington’s message was received by the team, and it’s looking to clean things up on Sunday.

“I think we can really learn from this going into the next game,” Bickerstaff said.

The Dukes have connected on at least 10 3-pointers in four games this season, but it’s the defensive side of the ball where most of Byington’s concerns are coming from. He said attention to scouting reports, particularly in relation to defending opponents’ shots from beyond the arc, can be improved.

Edwards (18.9 points per game) and Bickerstaff (16.6) headline a balanced offensive attack that has five players with double-figure scoring averages.

“We’ve had a lot of guys step up,” said JMU guard Noah Freidel, who averages 11.7 points per game. “Everyone trusts everyone. It just depends on how the game is going.”

James Madison is coming off a game against a one-win Buffalo team, so the Dukes realize that they must be attentive regardless of who they’re playing.

“Don’t change up,” Freidel said. “If you’ve got a game, you’ve got 40 minutes to go out there and anything can happen.”

Keystone (1-6), of the United East Conference, will be playing its third game in five days. The Giants won 86-85 at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., on Saturday.

Brandon Scott paced Keystone with 31 points, including the game-winning layup, in the victory. Jack Anderson supplied 18 points.

The Giants are playing under first-year coach Andrew Kettel, who spent the previous 10 years coaching boys basketball at Scranton Prep.

“This is a new challenge,” Kettel said this past summer during an interview with local news station WNEP 16. “The people here at Keystone have been unbelievable to work with and they’re super supportive.”

Keystone played Division I Binghamton on Nov. 12 and fell 104-50. Anderson scored his 1,000th career point in that contest.

Sunday marks the first meeting between the Giants and James Madison.

–Field Level Media


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