GAME NOTES: The San Jose State Spartans will try to pick up their first win of the season before they leave the Land of Lincoln as they battle the James Madison Dukes in their final matchup in this season's NIU Invitational at the Convocation Center.
James Madison will be looking to bounce back after it dropped a 77-66 decision to Milwaukee on Saturday. The loss lowered the Dukes to a 1-2 overall record as they lost at Virginia in their season opener before picking up a 60-55 victory over Northern Illinois on Friday. Poor outside shooting prevented coach Matt Brady's team from keeping pace with its opposition on Saturday as the Panthers finished the contest 11-of-24 from beyond the arc, while the Dukes made good on only 4-of-17 from 3-point range.
The Spartans came up just short of their first win on Friday as they were defeated, 64-61, by Milwaukee in the opening game of the tournament. They followed their three-point loss to the Panthers with a one-point setback to NIU on Saturday. Poor interior defense prevented SJSU from triumphing over the hosting school as the Huskies outscored it, 30-10, in the paint. SJSU has lost 17 games in a row dating back to last season after going winless in Western Athletic Conference play. The school hired coach Dave Wojcik to lead it into its first year as a member of the Mountain West Conference. Wojcik has a handful of new faces on his squad, as the Spartans look to rebuild after netting only 62 points per game in 2012-13.
This will be the second meeting in history between JMU and SJSU. The Dukes won the first encounter as they downed the Spartans in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops event last December.
JMU has received strong play from senior forward Andrey Semenov in the tourney so far. After registering a double-double with 10 points and the same number of boards versus NIU, the 6-foot-7 forward led the way with 20 points against Milwaukee. While Semenov paced the team in the scoring column, freshman guard Jackson Kent came off the bench to score a career-high 12 points, while Taylor Bessick, Ron Curry and Charles Cooke added 10 points. Freshman forward Tom Vodanovich had an impressive debut with 11 points in 38 minutes in Charlottesville, but he has scored just two points at the Convocation Center.
SJSU was led by Rashad Muhammad on Friday as he came off the bench to lead all scorers with 17 points and tallied 11 more versus the Huskies in the second stage of the round robin tournament. The 6-6 freshman guard has been consistent to net 14.3 ppg, but he is converting only 26.5 percent of his shots from the floor. Junior forward Jaleel Williams has also finished in double figures in all three games, including a 20-point outing at Santa Clara and Saturday's strong effort that yielded 13 points and six rebounds in a season-high 32 minutes of action. Rookie guard Jalen James has contributed 11.5 ppg in the team's two tournament losses.
The Spartans are a very young team in terms of leadership and will have a difficult time once they enter MWC play. They have been competitive, but their lack of experience has hurt them in close games. Although JMU has also failed to impress, it has a clear edge in talent and Semenov could have a field day if his shot continues to fall.
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