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No. 20 James Madison focuses on Hampton, not perfect mark this season

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Ranked this season for the first time and off to its best start in program history, No. 20 James Madison has shown no ill effects of swimming in uncharted waters.

The Dukes (9-0), who lead Division I in scoring (94.1 points per game), will try to extend their perfect start as they travel across Virginia for the second straight weekend, playing Saturday afternoon at Hampton (4-5).

Despite its success, James Madison dropped two notches in the rankings this week, probably owed to its recent schedule as its last three wins have come decisively over three teams with losing records in Buffalo, Keystone and Old Dominion.

James Madison expected a tougher battle Saturday when it played at rival Old Dominion, but the Dukes cruised to an 84-69 decision.

When coach Mark Byington was asked afterward how it felt to make history by becoming the first James Madison team to win its first nine games, he showed no excitement.

“I don’t think of it,” Byington said. “We were 1-0 today. That’s the key.”

Byington was perturbed that the Dukes didn’t put away the Monarchs earlier. James Madison led by 24 midway through the second half before Old Dominion whittled the deficit to 14 with 4:55 left.

Fatigue shouldn’t have been a factor as James Madison had played only one game in the previous nine days and that was a 130-59 domination of Division III Keystone.

“We just got lethargic,” Byington said. “I think our guys just took a breath. I wanna learn from that. I don’t wanna be like that again.”

At Old Dominion, Byington had no problem with the play of his centers T.J. Bickerstaff (21 points, 12 rebounds) and Jaylen Carey (13 points, five rebounds). In their combined 39 minutes, the duo made 15 of 18 shots.

“When Jaylen Carey was in, we just didn’t have any drop-off,” Byington said of the 6-foot-8, 245-pound freshman. “He’s a big, tough dude. I don’t care if he’s 18.”

The game with Hampton could be free-wheeling. The Pirates have scored in triple digits in three wins this season, though none of those came against a Division I team.

Hampton is coming off a 100-53 win over Division III Mary Baldwin as 6-9 freshman Jerry Deng came off the bench and scored 37 points, which was almost more than double his season high as he hit 15 of 19 shots.

“We think Jerry’s a tremendous talent,” Hampton’s 12-year coach Edward Joyner Jr. told the Virginian-Pilot. “We think he could do some tremendous things here.”

Hampton also welcomed back its top scorer from last season, Jordan Nesbitt (14.9 points per game in 2022-23), who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the Pirates’ first eight games.

The Pirates have been led by Tedrick Wilcox Jr., who tops the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game, and Kyrese Mullen, who averages 15.5 points and a team-high 8.8 rebounds per game.

James Madison is 5-1 all-time against Hampton, including a 106-58 romp on Nov. 9, 2022, as Terrence Edwards Jr. had 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Edwards is the Dukes’ top scorer this season, averaging 17.9 points per game.

–Field Level Media

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