HARRISONBURG, Va. – Freshmen Aprill McRae and Christina Carter combined to score nearly half of VCU's points, contributing 11 and 10, respectively, but the Rams couldn't overcome an eight-point halftime deficit and dropped back-to-back games for the first time this year, falling 64-43 at James Madison Thursday night.
After a tightly contested first 15 minutes, which featured seven ties and seven lead changes, James Madison went on a tear, scoring 29 of the game's next 39 points and eventually built a 21-point advantage with 9:14 to go.
The Rams cut the deficit to 21-19 with 4:27 left in the opening stanza before the Dukes, who extended their home winning streak to 17 games – eighth-longest active streak in the nation, used a 19-6 spurt to take a comfortable lead.
Senior forward Courtney Hurt, who entered the game as the nation's third-leading scorer averaging 24.6 ppg, was held to just eight points despite hauling in 15 rebounds. Classmate Andrea Barbour also finished with eight points, 11 below her average.
Neither team led by more than three points during the first 15 minutes of the contest. A layup by McRae with 9:53 showing gave VCU a 15-14 advantage, which proved to be its final lead of the game, as a 3-pointer from Nikki Newman two minutes later put James Madison back in front.
Carter, who led the Rams with seven first-half points, knotted the score again at 17-17 on VCU's next possession, but a pair of free throws from Tarik Hislop with 5:41 to go but the Dukes back in front for good.
A jumper by junior Robyn Hobson cut the deficit to 21-19 with 4:27 left but James Madison wouldn't go away. Kerby Burkholder eventually nailed a trey with four seconds remaining to give James Madison, which scored 12 of the final 16 points of the opening period, a 29-21 advantage.
The Dukes continued their surge to start the second half, holding VCU to just one field goal through the first 14 minutes, while increasing their lead to as many as 25 on a jumper from Jasmine Gill with 3:16 to go.
Gill paced three James Madison players in double figure scoring with a game-high 15 points. Lauren Whitehurst added 12 and Burkholder chipped in 11 with six assists and five steals.
VCU returns to the Verizon Wireless Arena for back-to-back CAA matchups beginning with UNC Wilmington on Jan. 8 at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised on The Comcast Network. The Rams then host league rival Old Dominion on Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. on ESPN3.