No. 22 James Madison Improves To 7-0 With An 81-66 Victory Over Buffalo

James Madison forward T.J. Bickerstaff (3) looks for an open teammate around Buffalo forward Zaakir Williamson (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Harrisonburg, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record Via AP)
James Madison forward T.J. Bickerstaff (3) looks for an open teammate around Buffalo forward Zaakir Williamson (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Harrisonburg, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record Via AP)
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (AP) — TJ Bickerstaff scored 18 points and No. 22 James Madison remained unbeaten with an 81-66 victory over Buffalo on Wednesday night.

Terrence Edwards added 15 points as the Dukes (7-0) cruised to their second straight blowout victory. Bickerstaff finished with seven rebounds and four assists.

Sy Chatman scored 19 points for Buffalo (1-6).

“It was a win, but I don’t think it’s going to be a win we celebrate,” JMU coach Mark Byington said. “We didn’t play very well. We’ve got to learn from wins and learn from things we didn’t do well. I didn’t think we practiced well, and it showed.”

The Dukes opened the game on a 13-0 run in the first four minutes, including a pair of 3-pointers by Noah Freidel. He finished with 13 points.

“We had a couple guys step up and make some shots,” Byington said. “But as a group that was not one of our better ones.”

But JMU went the next five minutes without a basket as Buffalo chipped into the lead. The Dukes finished the half strong, including back-to-back 3s from Michael Green, who scored 14, to go into the half with a 37-24 lead.

While both teams continued to shoot well from 3-point range in the second half, Buffalo racked up turnovers as the Dukes pushed the lead to 18 points midway through the period. An emphatic slam by Bickerstaff made it 78-55 with four minutes to go.

Buffalo coach George Halcovage III came away impressed with the Dukes.

“Coach Byington is a heck of a coach,” Halcovage said. “That team can make a run. They are that good and they play together and they play the right way. They’ve got a good thing going here.”

THE BIG PICTURE

A tough start under Halcovage, a longtime Villanova assistant, continued for Buffalo. The Bulls have yet to defeat a Division I opponent and have now lost to three Sun Belt teams: JMU, Louisiana and South Alabama.

James Madison is one victory away from matching its best start in school history. The only time the Dukes opened a season 8-0 was 1981-82. Those Dukes beat Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing 52-50 to eventual national champion North Carolina and Michael Jordan in the second round.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Dukes stayed at No. 22, their highest ranking in school history, this week following a pair of victories in the Cancun Challenge. A victory against the struggling Bulls might not vault JMU much higher, but could be enough to keep Byington’s team ranked after starting the season outside the Top 25.

UP NEXT.

Buffalo: Has an in-state contest on tap, returning home Saturday to face St. Bonaventure.

James Madison: Is home again Sunday for a non-Division I game against Keystone College. The Dukes then travel the following Saturday to face in-state and conference rival Old Dominion in a non-conference game that won’t count in the Sun Belt Conference standings.

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