UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – Junior Andrea Barbour contributed a game-high tying 20 points and classmate Courtney Hurt posted her NCAA-leading 25th double-double with 18 points and 11rebounds, but a late Virginia Commonwealth University rally came up short in a 67-57 loss to top-seed James Madison Saturday afternoon in the semifinals of the Colonial Athletic Association Women's Basketball Championship at The Show Place Arena.
James Madison (25-7) used a 27-6 run and built a 14-point advantage with 7:50 left in the game but VCU stormed back and pulled within three with 3:45 to go. However, the deficit proved to be too much for the Rams as CAA Player of the Year Dawn Evans drained a 3-pointer to put the Dukes up by eight with 2:31 left and JMU hit 11-of-12 from the free throw line to seal the win.
VCU (19-11) and James Madison squared off in the semifinals for the fourth consecutive season. The Dukes, who have won four straight against VCU in the CAA Tournament, have also captured seven in a row and 12 of the last 17 in the series.
James Madison will look for its second straight league title in Sunday's championship game against the winner of No. 3 UNC Wilmington/No. 7 Delaware. Meanwhile, the Rams continue a run of 26 consecutive years where a four seed will not participate in the CAA title game. It is the only seed among the top seven to have never appeared on Championship Sunday in league history. The last time a team seeded outside the top-three made it to a championship game was No. 6 UNC Wilmington in 2002.
Neither team led by more than four points during the first 19 minutes of the contest. James Madison built a quick 4-0 advantage but VCU eventually took its first lead on a 3-pointer by junior Jennifer Lane at the 12:32 mark. The Dukes went back in front less than three minutes later after Courtney Hamner nailed a triple from the right corner, but it was the last time James Madison would lead in the half as senior Jessica Taylor gave VCU an 18-17 advantage with a trey with 8:46 to go.
James Madison would tie the score twice over the next five minutes but freshman Robyn Parks hit a jumper with 2:47 showing and VCU scored six of the final seven points of the period and took a 29-24 lead into the locker room.
Barbour pushed the Rams lead to 31-24, their largest of the game, with a layup less than 20 seconds into the final stanza but James Madison scored 11 of the next 13 and took its first lead since the 10:09 mark of the opening period on a triple by Hamner with 14:54 remaining. A drive by Hurt knotted the score at 35-35 less than a minute later but the Dukes continued to pressure and Evans scored nine of the next 11 and James Madison pulled ahead 48-35 with 9:27 to go.
Lauren Jimenez eventually capped off a 27-6 James Madison run with a traditional three-point play with 7:50 to go and the Dukes built their largest lead at 51-37.
Then a pair of free throws by Hurt sparked an 11-0 VCU run as the Rams pulled within 51-48 with 3:45 to go. However, Lauren Whithurst put the Dukes back up by five and Evans drained a triple to give James Madison an eight-point lead with 2:31 left. VCU couldn't catch up as James Madison missed just one free throw the rest of the game.