David Fanning's last second three point attempt hit the rim and bounced harmlessly away to give WVU a 70-67 revenge win over the Dukes, who pounded the Mountaineers during their visit to Harrisonburg last year.
"We wanted to switch over their screen, but they still got a good look," said freshman guard Jo Herber, who wound up being the closest Mountaineer to Fanning on the last shot. "I was trying to get my hand up on him and I almost fouled him. I was a little bit scared that I was going to hit him."
Before the last defensive series that decided the game, it was a contest of streaks, as both teams alternated period of flowing offensive play with bouts of ragged execution.
After playing to early ties at 14, 16 and 24, the visiting Dukes went on an 11-3 run to take the lead at 35-27. WVU fought back a bit to close the halftime margin to six points at 38-32, but James Madison clearly had the hpper hand in the opening stanza. The Dukes hit seven of 12 three point shots as they moved the ball effiiciently to find the open man against WVU's still evolving 1-3-1 zone.
"James Madison is a veteran team, and they shredded out zone," Beilein said after the contest. "We have some huge holes in our communication on defense. We have to play the angles of our defense a little differently due to our size, and a lot of our players aren't used to that."
West Virginia countered with a 20-2 run to open the second half and turn the deficit into a twelve point advantage. The Mountaineers exhibited the best of Beilein ball during this stretch, as they got easy shots in transition, ran off screens for three point shots and only permitted James Madison one shot on the majority of their offensive possessions.
JMU's only points during the run were on a dunk by Kenny Whitehead, but those proved to be a harbinger of things to come. Following the pattern that Duquesne used to defeat the Mountaineers last week, James Madison pounded the ball inside for several dunks and easy layups by Whitehead and forwards Ian Caskill and Dwayne Broyles.
Using that strategy, the Dukes quickly shaved the twelve point deficit to one before finally taking the lead at 63-62 on a Caskill layup.
West Virginia immediatley responded with a Kevin Pittsnogle three pointer to regain the lead, which the preserved through the final minutes.
Drew Schifino had 18 points and Pittsnogle 17 to pace WVU. Tyrone Sally added ten points and six rebounds.
The Mountaineers travel to Charleston next Tuesday to face Florida in the Charleston Civic Center.