James Madison guard Ron Curry sat at the end of the bench with a towel draped over his head, an ice bag on his left knee, and the Dukes with little hope of a victory against College of Charleston.
Curry, the Dukes’ leading scorer, was averaging nearly 20 points a game in Colonial Athletic Associations match-ups going into Thursday night’s contest against the Cougars.
With 8:22 left in the game, Curry left the game with a sprained knee and did not return. The Dukes still found a way to win.
Joey McLean knocked down a crucial three-pointer and then hit three of four free throws in the final 15 seconds as James Madison rallied to beat College of Charleston, 56-62, Thursday night before a crowd of 3,100 at TD Arena.
The Cougars, who had their modest two-game winning streak snapped, fell to 15-9 and 7-6 in the CAA. The Dukes, just one game back of William & Mary for second place in the CAA, improved to 19-7 and 9-4.
Curry, the reigning CAA player of the week, had just connected on a 3-pointer to pull the Dukes to within, 43-42, with 8:32 to play. On Charleston’s ensuing possession, Curry was defending Cougars guard Payton Hulsey when he tried to make a cut and crumpled to the floor.
“It’s a sprained knee, we’re not sure how bad it is, but I don’t think he’ll play (Saturday) against (UNC) Wilmington,” said James Madison head coach James Brady. “We won’t know about the following week until the doctors take a look at it.”
With Curry sitting on the bench, the Dukes found scoring from unlikely sources in the final seven minutes of the game. Jackson Kent and McLean came up with the biggest plays down the stretch.
“I don’t think we relaxed after Curry went out,” said College of Charleston guard Marquise Pointer, who led the Cougars with 15 points. “We can’t afford to do that in this league. James Madison has other good players that can score, so we couldn’t just stop playing because he got hurt.”
Cameron Johnson’s layup gave the Cougars a 47-46 with 3:40 to play. The Cougars would manage just five downs the rest of the way.
“We had some shots, had some good looks at the basket that for whatever reason didn’t fall for us tonight,” said College of Charleston coach Earl Grant. “You’ve got to give them credit, down the stretch, they made more plays than we did.”
Dovontae Morgan scored on a layup for James Madison, Kent made a jump hook in traffic at the 1:16 mark, but it was McLean’s 3-pointer from the corner that put the game out of reach as the Dukes held a 53-47 advantage with 26.4 seconds to play.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in all of our guards that they can knock down that shot,” Brady said. “Jackson made a great pass to find him in the corner and Joey made a huge shot for us.”
Jarrell Brantley, who scorched the Dukes defense for 29 points in the Cougars 65-62 back in January, finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
“We wanted to make it tough on him to score,” Brady said. “We probably didn’t have the right people guarding him the first time we played and he made us pay for that. This time we wanted to make him work for every shot and every point he got.”
Early on, the Dukes looked like they would run away with the game. Leading 21-9 with six minutes left in the opening half, the Dukes were battering the Cougars on the offensive glass.
Grant called a timeout and the Cougars finished the half on a 14-4 run and trailed just 25-23 at halftime.
“We made some adjustments got committed to rebounding and things changed after that,” Grant said.
The Cougars came out in the second half on a 15-5 run and eventually took a 40-31 lead on Brantley’s jumper from the corner,
But the Dukes were able to chip away at the lead and come out with the victory.
“The margin of error is so small in this league, so to get a win on the road against a team like Charleston, it’s an accomplishment,” Brady said.