Indiana squashes James Madison’s Cinderella hopes in NCAA tournament

March 22, 2013

Years from now, this James Madison men’s basketball team will look back on this season and fondly remember the school’s the first NCAA tournament win in 30 years. As great as the purple-soaked party felt, though, it will be hard to forget what came two days later: a painful, thorough, one-sided defeat at the hands of one of the nation’s best teams.

“We’ve never seen nothing like that,” said JMU senior Devon Moore, held scoreless for the first time in his 125-game career.

Indiana, the top seed in the tournament’s East Region, dismantled JMU and shattered any glass slipper hopes, beating the Dukes, 83-62, on Friday. The Hoosiers advanced to face No. 9 Temple, which beat North Carolina State, 76-72, earlier in the day at University of Dayton Arena.

The talented Indiana team showed why it was ranked atop the polls for much of the season and why it could be poised for a deep tournament run. The Hoosiers, who led the Dukes by 33 at one point, controlled the ball, played tight defense and shot well. Even when the game was well in hand, Indiana’s intensity barely waned.

“They treated this game like it was any other we’ve played this year,” Indiana Coach Tom Crean said of his players.

With five Hoosiers scoring in double digits, the Hoosiers were led by freshman guard Yogi Ferrell, who had 16 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Ferrell made his first six field goals and didn’t miss a shot until three minutes had passed in the second half.

Indiana spread the ball around, as nine players entered the scoring column, including junior Victor Oladipo, the DeMatha product who posted 11 points and pulled down 6 rebounds.

Even though a No. 16 seed has never topped a No. 1, Indiana players say they weren’t about to take JMU lightly, especially after Southern nearly upset top-seeded Gonzaga in the West Region one day earlier.

“We know that anything can pretty much happen in this tournament,” Ferrell said. “We’ve already seen some crazy things happen.”

Crean said he never worried about his team eyeing tougher teams down the road, though he was hopeful that the Big 10 tournament – capped by a 13-point loss to Wisconsin in the semifinals — didn’t deplete his players. Crean said he was concerned that conference play could’ve left his team too battered, too bruised.

“It goes through your head. I'd be lying to say it didn't,” Crean said. “There’s no way around it. You're in that league, and it's possession by possession, and it's so physical and taxing.”

It certainly didn’t show Friday.

While Ferrell put on a show in his NCAA tournament debut, James Madison benefited from a strong freshman performance of its own. Nation, 19, led the Dukes with 24 points, shooting 10 of 16 from the field. And fellow freshman Charles Cooke came off the bench and chipped in 18 points for James Madison.

But many other JMU players struggled to find any kind of rhythm against the polished Hoosier squad. The result was 40 minutes packed with air balls, missed layups, defensive lapses and rushed shots.

Two nights earlier, JMU had posted its first tournament win since 1983, knocking off LIU-Brooklyn, 68-55, in a battle between No. 16 seeds. But from the tip Friday, the difference between a No. 16 seed and a No. 1 was apparent.

Indiana scored the game’s first nine points, and nearly four minutes passed before James Madison hit its first field goal. The Hoosiers managed to build an early 23-point lead.

“They threw the first punch,” Nation said, “And then they threw another punch. And they kept throwing them. We weren’t throwing any back.”

In the opening half, the Dukes shot 29 percent from the field and were only 3 of 11 from behind the three-point arc. Lacking depth at the post position, JMU Coach Matt Bradley started the game with a four-guard lineup. The result was predictable: the Hoosiers dominated underneath, outscoring JMU in the paint 20-6 and holding a 22-15 rebounding edge in the first half alone.

In the second half, the Hoosiers picked up where they left off, even as they rotated more players into the game. Seven reserves saw time on the court, and Will Sheehey came off the bench to chip in 15 points for Indiana.

“While I’m disappointed that we won’t be advancing in this tournament, I feel like we clearly lost to a better team today,” Brady said. “Watching them on tape and trying to prepare your team for Indiana is one thing, and then being on the court with them and having our team play against those guys with the speed and power with which they run play and the quickness with which they pass the ball was really impressive.”

Rick Maese is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.
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