Dukes spoil Hoosiers’ WNIT Appearance

James Madison coach Kenny Brooks knows IU coach Feliha Legette-Jack, as both took jobs in the Colonial Athletic Association at the same time six seasons back. Brooks is still there, while Coach Jack just completed Year 2 at Indiana after arriving from Hofstra.

“Coach Jack is a good friend of mine, and we’ve done a lot of battles during our careers, and I think she’s doing a remarkable job here and has got this program going in the right direction,” Brooks said after he got the upper hand in a second-round wNIT game at Assembly Hall on Saturday, an 86-81 overtime win for JMU.

A huge part of the Dukes’ victory was a decisive advantage in the rebounding category, where they topped the Hoosiers, 46-28, including 18-7 offenisve. The team led the nation in rebounding margin entering postseason play and set a school record for most boards in a season in it’s last game.

“I wish I could tell you that it’s something that I’m doing,” said Brooks, who played for the James Madison men’s team. “But I was a point guard, and I didn’t rebound. It’s mainly the kids
and the mindset they have.”

In the waning seconds of regulation, there was an ominous moment that perhaps foreshadowed the end result. After draining two free thows for a three-point Hoosier lead with 28.5 seconds left, Kim Roberson got tangled up with JMU freshman Dawn Evans after the ensuing timeout. Evans tripped and got the foul call (making both FTs later), while Roberson went to the floor immediately, clutching her ankle. The crowd, though less than 1,000, had been lively until that point, when a sick silence fell in the building as Roberson didn’t get up. It got nastier, as some fans called out the officials for a poor job in the second half. Roberson was eventually helped to the bench by trainer Robert Black and another helper, not putting any weight on her right foot. It appeared to be badly twisted, maybe a sprain, but she could not return to the game. The CAA Player of the Year, Tamera Young, hit a shot to tie the game and force the extra period moments later. Roberson is one of the Hoosiers’ best defenders and FT shooters, so her presence was sorely missed in the overtime.

Young also scored at the end of the first half, cutting a once 11-point Indiana lead down to three, obviusly a much more manageable deficit.

“I thought that play was huge…We didn’t play our best basketball and we were still down one possession,” said Brooks. “To be down five is a little bit different. But she hit the shot to put us within one possession…and we knew we had a chance. From a psychological standpoint, for us as coaches to be able to go in there and motivate the kids, I thought it was huge.”

Nikki Smith played her last game in the Cream and Crimson, scoring 10 points and hitting three 3s. All of them were clutch, giving IU two second-half leads and the third a prayer from the right corner with 15 seconds left in OT on which she was fouled. She hit the FT for a four-point play and pulled the team within three, but time was short, and JMU hit their FTs to seal it. Man oh man, if that crazy shot had spurred the Hoosiers on to an improbable win, one of the team’s all-time greatest 3-point shooters would have been flirting with a legendary performance.

“Nikki was a great player for us,” said IU freshman Jori Davis after the game. “But we still have good players coming up, like Haylie Linn, (a) very good shooter. We’re returning everyone else, so I feel we have a bright future. We just gotta go back to practicing and learn from this mistake.”