— An early second half substitution, reminiscent of a Dean Smith classic, provided a spark that helped lift William and Mary Thursday over James Madison. The Tribe prevailed 73-72 courtesy of a Daniel Dixon free throw with seven seconds remaining before a would-be winner at the buzzer for the Dukes was waved off after further review.
Down 40-33 just a couple of minutes into the second half, Tribe coach Tony Shaver sent five players to the scorers table: Pauly Rowley, Oliver Tot, Connor Burchfield, Justin Pierce and Nathan Knight.
Smith, the late University of North Carolina coaching legend that Shaver suited up for from 1972-75, called his group of five-man subs the "Blue" team.
Thursday's version for William and Mary was golden.
"That second group was terrific," Shaver said. "Really proud of them and proud for them as well."
Burchfield, a junior guard, split at the free throw line and nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Tribe an immediate boost. And another minute later, Rowley nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing to give William and Mary (9-8, 3-3 Colonial Athletic Association) its first lead of the half at 44-43.
Rowley, a 6-foot-8-inch junior, scored 14 of the Tribe's 28 bench points. Maybe moreover, he played with energy and enthusiasm, beaming from ear to ear after the 3 and when he hit Pierce for a backdoor layup.
"We had some guys that were in foul trouble and we brought some guys in and the energy wasn't the same," JMU coach Louis Rowe said. "And they took advantage of that. Their energy was high and our energy was low."
"They brought amazing energy," Dixon said. "I thought as soon as they got in there, they made a huge difference and I don't think we were as energetic as them. They really stepped it up and inspired us to come back on the floor and play well. Big credit to them for this win."
Dixon, who missed Saturday's loss against Charleston with an injury, finished with a game-high 18 points. He had only practiced once this week but surprised Shaver with a stellar performance that included shooting 8-for-9 from the foul line and contributing seven rebounds, four assists a three steals.
The defeat was the third contest in a row for the Dukes (6-14, 4-3 CAA) decided by two points or less, following last Thursday's defeat to College of Charleston and last Saturday's win over Elon.
Shaver called for a timeout after Dixon's go-ahead free throw, and then Rowe countered by whistling for one of his own before the Dukes went the length of the floor to try to win it.
Junior point guard Joey McLean brought it to down the right side of the floor, cut to his left toward the free line and dished it to redshirt-junior guard Ramone Snowden on the left under the basket, who had his layup attempt blocked by William and Mary senior forward Omar Prewitt. JMU senior guard Shakir Brown attempted a rebound before the ball fell to the Dukes' 6-foot-8 forward Yohanny Dalembert, who had both hands on the ball on his way up for a shot as the backboard lit up to signal zeroes on the clock.
JMU heads Saturday to Charleston (15-5, 6-1), which fell Thursday to league-leader UNC Wilmington (18-2, 7-0) and William and Mary will visit Elon (11-9, 3-4) Saturday.
Senior guard Jackson Kent led the Dukes Thursday with 17 points, playing all but two minutes in a game that ended with seven players between the instate rivals with four or more fouls. McLean, senior forward Paulius Satkus and Dalembert each had three fouls before the 10-minute mark of the second half and Satkus fouled out with 2:20 to play. And with 1:20 to play, junior forward Jack Whitman fouled out for the Tribe with nine points and five rebounds.
In a contest that featured 17 lead changes, the Tribe out rebounded the guests 31-27. Neither team shot well from the foul line as the Dukes hit 56 percent and the Tribe 64.7.
After scoring the first bucket of the game, JMU didn't take its second lead until 7:40 to play in the first half on a McLean 3-pointer. It was part of a 9-0 run that gave the Dukes a 30-21 lead.
But the Tribe, pushing the tempo offensively, climbed back into it with a 10-0 run of its own capped by a Prewitt transition layup for two of his 12 points to give the home side a 31-30 lead with 2:22 to play in the half.
JMU accounted for the last two scores of the first half, on a Brown 3 from the right wing, and a Kent runner in the lane just before the buzzer sounded to give the Dukes a 37-33 advantage at halftime.
"I felt like they did a little more that they wanted to do than we did, but our bench won the game for us," Shaver said. "That's where it starts, really. We found a way to win."
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.