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Morgan State looking to knock off No. 20 James Madison


The surprising rise of No. 20 James Madison has given several mid-major conference teams the rare opportunity to face a ranked team on their home floor.

So far, none of them have taken advantage.

The next team to get a shot at James Madison (11-0) on its home floor is Morgan State (4-9) of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Dukes have an afternoon date with the Bears on Friday in Baltimore.

James Madison has had some struggles on the road, trailing by 10 points late at Kent State and by the same margin in the first half at Hampton. But the Dukes responded to both challenges. They also have road wins at Michigan State and Old Dominion.

The test at Morgan State will be the final nonconference game for James Madison, which will play its Sun Belt Conference opener Dec. 30 at home against Texas State.

James Madison and Morgan State are led by former Boston College players, though they were never teammates.

T.J. Bickerstaff, who paces James Madison in points (16.1) and rebounds (8.4) per game, played at Boston College the last two years.

“He’s a perfect fit. He’s aggressive. He’s tough. He’s experienced,” Dukes coach Mark Byington said.

Wynston Tabbs, who leads Morgan State in points (16.4) per game, played at Boston College from 2018-21, during a career which has been marred by knee injuries.

Tabbs showed no signs of being hobbled through the Bears’ first 11 games. But after scoring a career-high 38 points in a 92-80 win over UMBC on Dec. 6, Tabbs has missed two games and his status is uncertain for Friday.

Morgan State athletic contacts did not respond to a request for more information.

James Madison is coming off an 87-48 romp Tuesday night over another Baltimore-based MEAC school, Coppin State.

Bickerstaff made 8 of 9 shots on his way to finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Terrence Edwards Jr. added 16 points and Julien Wooden added 13 points, six rebounds and four steals.

Defense was key for the Dukes as they forced 30 turnovers and held the Eagles to 34.7 percent shooting from the floor and 1 of 13 (7.7 percent) from beyond the arc.

Michael Green III had six steals for James Madison, which outscored Coppin State on points off turnovers 34-12.

“That was the biggest offense we had tonight was our defense,” Byington said.

With the win, the Dukes extended their best start in program history and remained one of four undefeated teams in Division I.

On Monday night, Morgan State lost a seven-point lead in the first half and never led after the break in an 83-76 loss at Campbell.

Amahrie Simpkins and Will Thomas combined for 45 points, hitting 19 of 29 shots from the floor, to lead the Bears, who have a passing, cutting offense, with lots of ball and player movement.

“I don’t know where everybody’s getting this about the Princeton offense,” Morgan State coach Kevin Broadus said. “People see it, say it, because I worked at Georgetown. We call it the Morgan offense.”

–Field Level Media

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