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No. 20 James Madison learning to maintain effort, faces Coppin St.

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As No. 20 James Madison has negotiated the least challenging part of its schedule, the Dukes have had to overcome lapses in focus.

Wen James Madison plays host to Coppin State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference on Tuesday in Harrisonburg, Va., the Dukes want to have a lapse-free, stress-free game.

That was not the case for James Madison on Saturday in the first half at Hampton as it fell behind by 10 points, a deficit that matched the largest the Dukes have faced this year.

But James Madison dug out of the hole and bolted to a 25-point lead in the second half on its way to an 88-71 victory.

“It wasn’t a schematic change. It was an effort change,” Dukes coach Mark Byington said.

With their last four wins coming over teams with losing records, James Madison’s intensity has wavered.

On Saturday, with their top threat, Terrence Edwards Jr., failing to score, the Dukes used balanced scoring to compensate as six Dukes reached double figures.

Xavier Brown came off the bench to match his career high with 17 points, while Michael Green III delivered 16 points and eight assists. The backcourt duo combined to hit 7 of 13 shots from beyond the arc.

“Mike Green just finds people. Xavier Brown was tremendous in the second half, his energy, his excitement, his defense,” Byington said. “A lot of times we play those two small guards out there together and they make good things happen.”

Green, who came to James Madison after playing two years at Bryant and two at Robert Morris, is the Dukes’ most experienced player with 123 college games under his belt.

Green is averaging 12.5 points and a team-high 5.0 assists in quarterbacking the highest-scoring team in Division I (93.5 points per game). But Green’s contributions go beyond the numbers, according to his coach.

“He’s pushing the other guys. He’s talking,” Byington said. “He’s got a good demeanor about him in bad times, which is not easy to do. Usually, in the bad times, people make excuses. He tries to get guys going.”

When the Dukes were down by 10 in the first half, it was Green who triggered the comeback, burying two 3-pointers 22 seconds apart.

Coppin State (1-11) has lost four straight, including a 71-54 defeat last Tuesday at Georgetown.

The Eagles were done in by poor ballhandling as they had more turnovers (18) than assists (13), a common theme this season as they rank next-to-last in Division I in assist/turnover ratio (97/181, 0.54).

“We’re a young team. Everybody thinks they can do it on their own,” Coppin State’s first-year coach Larry Stewart said after the Georgetown defeat. “There’s a process to winning. You have to learn how to win first. You gotta learn to depend on each and every one of your teammates.”

The Eagles were paced by Justin Winston, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Greg Spurlock added 14 points.

James Madison hopes for a better outcome than last December when the teams met in Baltimore, a 107-100 win for Coppin State in double overtime. That was a much different Eagles team however, as all five starters departed.

–Field Level Media

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