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NEWARK, Del. -- A battle for possession of second place in the Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball standings came down to wire Sunday night and it was James Madison that prevailed as Andre Nation scored his only basket of the game on a dunk off an inbounds pass in the final second to send the Dukes past the University of Delaware at the Bob Carpenter Center.
Delaware (14-13, 9-5 CAA), which had won three straight games and six of its previous seven coming in, had taken a 71-70 lead on a Devon Saddler driving layup with 24 seconds left to play.
But James Madison (16-12, 10-5 CAA) came back to win the game as Nation got free under the basket on an inbounds pass, took a perfect ally-oop pass from Devon Moore, and dunked the game-winner with just .6 left to play.
"We were in a switch and their guy just got free underneath," said Delaware head coach Monté Ross of the winning basket. "We put ourselves in a position to win the game but just couldn't close the deal. This was a game of runs and just couldn't withstand their final run. But we are a resilient group and we will bounce back."
Saddler (above right) led the Blue Hens with a game-high 23 points and added eight rebounds while Kyle Anderson (at left) added 16 points, Jarvis Threatt (below right)scored 12 points and dished out four assists, and Jamelle Hagins pulled down 11 rebounds. Saddler recorded his 12th 20-point game of the season and extended his streak of 33 straight games scoring in double figures.
Rayshawn Goins led James Madison with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Moore contributed 19 points and six assists, and A.J. Davis chipped in with 16 points for the Dukes, who won their second straight game and won just their third road game in 11 outings this season.
James Madison, which knocked down 10 of 21 three-pointers for the game and committed just six turnovers, swept the season series from the Blue Hens after also posting a 64-50 win in Harrisonburg, Va. back on Jan. 23.
Delaware led by as many as 11 points in the second half before James Madison charged back to post the pivotal victory. The Dukes trailed 54-43 with 13:54 and rallied back to tie the game at 60-60 with 8:36 remaining. The Hens regained the lead but JMU fought back again and took its first lead of the second half after two free throws by Moore with 4:39 remaining gave the Dukes a 67-66 lead.
A three-pointer by Ron Curry upped the JMU lead but Saddler came back to convert a conventional three-point play with 3:08 left and his layup with 24 seconds remaining gave Delaware the 71-70 advantage.
The Hens had the chance to add to the lead with eight seconds left to play but Hagins missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation and Davis grabbed the rebound. JMU got the ball into Goins but Hagins blocked his shot out of bounds with one second left.
After JMU called a timeout, Moore lobbed a perfect pass in the middle of the lane to Nation and the freshman guard finished off the play with the uncontested dunk.
Delaware had one more chance to win but a length of the court inbounds pass by Carl Baptiste went out of bounds. JMU then inbounded the ball and ran out the clock for the win.
The Hens, who knocked down 21 of 26 shots from the foul line and recorded a 42-35 advantage on the boards, came out of the gates fast in the first half, outscoring JMU 13-2 over the first six minutes before the Dukes settled down and eventually tied the game at 22-22 on three-pointer by Curry. The lead changed three more times before James Madison went up by as much as six points at 36-30 and took a 38-36 advantage into intermission.
Delaware came out strong again to start the second half, outscoring the Dukes 18-5 over the first six minutes and pushing the lead to as much as 11 points at 54-43 after Anderson scored six straight points.
The Hens will look to bounce back this Thursday, Feb. 21, when they host long-time rival Drexel at 7 p.m. at the Bob Carpenter Center. Delaware won the first matchup between the two teams this season with a 66-64 victory Jan. 28 in Philadelphia.