JMU uses late run to pull away from ULM, 58-45

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HARRISONBURG, Va. – James Madison closed the game on an 11-2 run, holding ULM to just one basket in the final 4:23 to defeat the Warhawks, 58-45, Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 6,429 at the Atlantic Union Bank Center, marking the conclusion of a four-game road swing for ULM.

“Sometimes in a season, and especially in conference play, you tip your hat to the other team,” ULM head coach Keith Richard said. “I thought they really guarded us in the second half and really defended us. It was a struggle out there to make a pass, to get a shot, to drive it. We couldn’t get by them. It was hard to get by them. When we did get some open looks, we missed them. We ran into a buzz saw here in the second half.”

After two free throws by Jamari Blackmon brought ULM (10-13 overall, 6-4 Sun Belt Conference) within four at 47-43 with 4:23 left, ULM attempted just three shots, missing all of them, while adding one turnover while JMU (15-8, 6-4) picked up a quick seven points off a 3-pointer and a four-point play by Noah Freidel to quickly push the lead to 11, 54-43, with 2:54 remaining. Terrence Edwards and Takal Molson added layups down the stretch for the final margin. Victor Bafutto’s dunk with five seconds left were ULM’s only points of the stretch.

“It’s the fourth game of a four-game road trip, and with four minutes to go, we were still right there,” Richard said. “It was tough. We really struggled offensively. I thought that we did a decent job defensively, about as well as we could do, to hold them to 40% from the field, 27% from the 3-point line. You usually can win on those kinds of numbers, but we didn’t have enough offense. Let’s give credit to James Madison.”

The first half had three ties and nine lead changes. Trailing 10-5, ULM went on a 7-0 run, with Tyreke Locure hitting a floater, Blackmon burying a 3-pointer and Bafutto adding a put-back dunk for the 12-10 lead with 12:41 to go to halftime.

JMU answered with an 8-0 run to go up 18-12 on Justin Amadi’s layup with 8:20 remaining in the half. ULM regained the lead on a tip-in on an offensive rebound by Bafutto with 4:27 left. The lead changed hands four more times to close out the half, with Locure hitting a fade away jumper from the right elbow just before the halftime buzzer to give ULM a 27-26 edge at the break.

ULM extended the lead to three, 29-26, with Thomas Howell’s baseline jumper to open the second half. However, JMU’s 8-0 run put the Dukes back on top, as the lead changed hands for the final time on Mezie Offurum’s three-point play with 18:29 remaining. Offurum added a step-back jumper in the lane at the 17:29 mark to extend the lead to five, 34-29.

The Warhawks were no closer than three the rest of the way, coming on a layup by Langston Powell with 15:31 to go, getting within 34-31. JMU never pushed the lead past eight before ULM trimmed it back to four, 47-43, on the free throws by Blackmon.

“The pace was right,” Richard said. “We wanted it a lower scoring game to give ourselves a chance. We had the pace right. They’re a longer, stronger team than we are. That wore on us at times through the game, but I really thought our guys battled defensively.”

Bafutto was the only Warhawk in double figures with 10 points. Blackmon added nine, while Powell and Howell had eight points each. Offurum led JMU with 15 points, while Edwards added 12 and Vado Morse had 11. Molson had five points but added 14 rebounds, four steals and three assists.

ULM shot 38% (19-of-50) from the field, but only 20% (4-of-20) from 3-point range and made 3-of-5 free throws. JMU shot 41% (22-of-54) from the floor and 28% (6-of-22) from the 3-point line while hitting 8-of-12 free throws (67%). JMU outrebounded ULM, 35-29, and forced 17 Warhawk turnovers.

ULM went 2-2 on the four-game road trip, picking up wins at Georgia Southern and Marshall.

“We split on the road,” Richard said. “That’s a great achievement. We have eight regular season games left, five at home and three on the road. The whole season is still right in front of us.”

ULM returns to Fant-Ewing Coliseum to open a three-game homestand at 6:30 p.m. Thursday against Coastal Carolina.

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