NCAA tournament: A.J. Davis, James Madison win opener

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DAYTON, Ohio — After winning the program’s first NCAA tournament game in 30 years, James Madison sounds as if it’s not done.

A.J. Davis, who stepped in as a starter because leading scorer was suspended for a half, led the way with 20 points as the Dukes beat LIU Brooklyn 68-55 on Wednesday night in the First Four.

Immediately, their thoughts turned to top-seeded Indiana (27-6), who they’ll play on the same University of Dayton Arena court on Friday night.

“They’re Indiana,” defiant defensive stalwart Andre Nation said. “We know about them. We see them on the TV all the time. It’s not nothing new.”

He’s not the only Duke who was undaunted.

“We have some older guys. They’re typically pretty unafraid of any of the challenges we face,” coach Matt Brady said.

James Madison was without suspended starter Rayshawn Goins for the first half but built a big lead. After the Blackbirds (20-14) battled back to take a brief lead, the Dukes surged again to win going away by closing the game on a 10-2 run.

Davis opened the game with an emphatic 3 as if to say this was his time. And he didn’t let up.

“Coach said don’t do anything outside of your character, just be humble and play your game,” Davis said. “While Rayshawn was sitting out, a couple of guys came off the bench and stepped up for us.”

Charles Cooke, who hadn’t scored in three of his last four games, added 15 points and Nation added 14 for the Dukes, who were winless in the NCAA tournament since 1983 and hadn’t played in the big dance in 19 years.

Jamal Olasewere had 20 points and 10 rebounds and C.J. Garner 16 points for the Blackbirds, who have lost in their first game in each of their six trips to the tournament, including the last three years.

Goins, JMU’s leading scorer (12.7) and rebounder (7.4), was suspended for the first half following a weekend arrest. Police in Harrisonburg, Va., said they were called to break up a party early Sunday morning and Goins was shouting obscenities at them.

Yet Brady, who made the call to sit Goins, is 1-0 in NCAA play.

“Some of the greats of the game have been in the NCAA tournament and have struck out for a few years at a time,” he said, shaking his head. “This really says more about this team than it does me. These seniors really wanted the opportunity to win a game for our program, and I feel great for our kids.”

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