HARRISONBURG, Va. – Junior forward Courtney Hurt scored her 1,000th career point in the first half and led all scorers with 26 but Virginia Commonwealth University couldn't overcome an 11-point halftime deficit and fell at James Madison, 69-59, Sunday afternoon at the JMU Convocation Center.
VCU, which lost for just the second time in its last eight outings, slips to 10-7 overall and 5-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Meanwhile, James Madison picks up its seventh straight home victory and improves to 13-6, 6-1.
Hurt, who became the first VCU junior since Quanitra Hollingsworth to reach the 1,000-point plateau, added nine rebounds and went 4 of 6 from 3-point range. However, she failed to post a double-double for just the second time this season. Hurt entered Sunday's game with an NCAA-best 15.
The game featured a battle between two of the nation's top three scorers in James Madison's Dawn Evans (1st - 24.6 ppg), who led the Dukes with 19 points including 9 of 11 from the free throw line and seven assists, and Hurt (3rd- 23.8 ppg).
Junior guard Jennifer Lane added 11 points and classmate Andrea Barbour chipped in 10 for VCU. James Madison's Lauren Jimenez contributed 14 points and teammate Jalissa Taylor finished with seven and a game-high 12 rebounds off the bench.
The first two minutes of the contest featured three ties and three lead changes as a jumper by the Dukes' Tarik Hislop knotted the score at 6-6 with 17:58 showing. However, a stick-back by junior Chelsea Snyder sparked a 15-5 VCU run, including Hurt's 1,000th career point, and the Rams took a 21-11 lead on a layup by Lane less than five minutes later.
Momentum would swing heavily into James Madison's favor, however, as Kiara Francisco halted VCU's run with a jumper at the 11:52 mark and ignited a 21-3 scoring spree for the Dukes. A fast break layup by Nikki Newman erased a 10-point VCU advantage and a 3-pointer by Evans on the ensuing possession put the Dukes on top 27-24 with 6:28 remaining.
James Madison, which held VCU to just one field goal over an eight minute stretch, went ahead 32-24 on a basket by Hislop with 4:09 to go.
A triple by Hurt (pictured, left) pulled the Rams within five on their next trip down the floor but it was as close as VCU would get the rest of the half. With time winding down, Evans drew a foul on 3-point attempt with 0.9 seconds left and hit all three from the line and James Madison took a 40-29 lead into the locker room.
The Dukes outscored VCU 29-8 during the final 12 minutes of the opening stanza.
Jimenez scored the first five points of the second half for the Dukes and Evans hit a pair from the line, and James Madison pushed its lead to 14 with 16:21 to go.
Trailing 55-39 with 11:30 remaining, Barbour nailed a 3-pointer to pull the Rams within 13 less than a minute later and then hit a jumper to cut the James Madison lead to 57-46 at the 8:17 mark.
A triple by Hurt from the top of the arc made it 61-51 with 5:20 left and Lane pulled the Rams within eight after a fast break layup on the next possession.
James Madison went back on top by 13 following a traditional three-point play by Evans with 1:49 to go but Hurt again nailed back-to-back 3-pointers and pulled VCU within 66-59 with 1:13 showing. The Dukes then hit 3 of 6 from the line to seal the win.
VCU returns home to face Georgia State on Thursday, Jan. 27 at 4 p.m. The Rams then welcome Drexel to the Verizon Wireless Arena for a 2 p.m. tipoff on Jan. 30.