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Game Preview: Virginia Basketball vs. JMU

The Cavaliers head to Harrisonburg for an in-state showdown with the Dukes

Virginia just barely avoided losing back-to-back games by one point as Jayden Gardner scored five points in the final ten seconds, including a jumper which fell after hitting the rim three times to give UVA a last-second 57-56 win over Pittsburgh. The Cavaliers held a seven-point lead with a few minutes left, but they went cold down the stretch and allowed the Panthers to come back to take the lead. Gardner’s late heroics helped the Hoos escape with the win in the ACC opener, but it is clear that UVA has yet to master the art of playing a complete game. Now, the Cavaliers hit the road for their second true road game of the season against a solid JMU team in Harrisonburg.

Game Details

Who: Virginia Cavaliers (6-3) vs. James Madison Dukes (7-2)

When: Tuesday, December 7th at 6:30pm

Where: Atlantic Union Bank Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia

How to watch: CBS Sports Network

All-time series: Virginia leads 11-0

Last meeting: Virginia defeated JMU 65-34 on November 10, 2019 at John Paul Jones Arena

By the Numbers

Virginia Cavaliers. JMU Dukes

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Opponent Outlook: JMU

JMU opened the season by scoring the second-most points in school history in a 135-40 victory over Carlow. The Dukes then won three straight games by five points or less against Old Dominion, Eastern Kentucky, and George Mason. JMU participated in the Naples Invitational, losing two out of three games in the non-conference tournament. The Dukes lost to Kent State and Murray State and defeated Wright State 78-76. Since then, JMU has bounced back with wins against Florida Atlantic and Eastern Mennonite.

The recipe for JMU’s success so far this season has been a balanced scoring attack. The Dukes have three players, Takal Molson (11.3 ppg), Vado Morse (11.2 ppg), and Charles Falden (10.2 ppg) averaging in double figures, but JMU has seven total players averaging at least eight points per contest. The Cavaliers will have to be sound on defense for all 30 seconds every possession to ensure that JMU does not get an open look as there will be several talented scorers on the floor at a time. JMU shoots 31.7% from three as a team, but Jalen Hodge (51.5%) and Charles Falden (44.6%) are both capable of lighting it up from long-range.

On the defensive end, JMU plays aggressive on-ball defense and routinely jumps passing lanes looking for steals. The Dukes rank fourth in the country in steals with 11.6 steals per game as a team. JMU is also top 20 nationally in turnover margin and the Dukes score an average of 23.2 points off of turnovers per game. Virginia will need to be secure with the ball to avoid giving JMU easy baskets in transition. 

What to Watch For

Turnover Battle

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When the Cavaliers take care of the ball, they are a very difficult team to beat. UVA had just six turnovers in the win over Pittsburgh and only four turnovers in the win against Georgia a couple weeks ago. JMU relies on a steady dose of fastbreak points from forcing turnovers to get its offense going. Even if Virginia is not scoring on every position, limiting turnovers will give the Hoos an edge over the Dukes.

Jayden Gardner vs. JMU

Jayden Gardner was not on the team the last time Virginia faced JMU in the 2019-2020 season. However, Gardner faced the Dukes that season when JMU and East Carolina played each other on November 30th, 2019. JMU defeated East Carolina 99-89, but Gardner made his presence felt with a stat line of 16 points, five rebounds, and two assists. Last season, Gardner got another crack at the Dukes and this time, East Carolina defeated JMU 73-64 behind 13 points and five rebounds from Gardner. Look for Gardner to stay aggressive and ride the momentum from his game-winning shot against Pittsburgh on Friday night as he looks to pick up another win over JMU. 

Huge crowd and an electric environment for an in-state showdown

JMU is expecting its biggest crowd ever at the Atlantic Union Bank Center on Tuesday night for this in-state matchup between the Cavaliers and the Dukes. It will be a purple out for the JMU fans on hand, but even JMU head coach Mark Byington says there will likely be “a little bit of orange” in the arena. It should be quite an exciting environment for this showdown between Commonwealth competitors. 

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