James Madison 86, Illinois State 85
BAYAMON, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Darren McLinton sank a 3-pointer with 16 seconds to go and had a key steal in the closing seconds to lead James Madison past Illinois State 86-85 Friday in opening round of the Puerto Rico Shootout.
Led by McLinton, who had 19 of his game-high 30 points in the second half, the Dukes scored the game’s last eight points in their season opener.
``This is a great way to start the year,″ said James Madison head coach Lefty Driesell. ``We have a bunch of young kids and you never know what they’re going to do in their first game, but we played well and hung in there the whole game.″
Down 41-36 at the half, James Madison closed Illinois State’s inside game, forcing the Redbirds to shoot from the perimeter.
``Defensively, we did what we had to do, but they made a lot of three-pointers and were able to stay ahead,″ Driesell said. ``But we did a great job defensively.″
Despite the tight defense, Illinois State, also in its first game of the sdason, keep its lead well into the second half thanks to 9-for-16 shooting from 3-point range.
Maurice Trotter, who went 4-for-6 from long range, and Jamar Smiley combined on a quick 7-2 run to give Illinois State an 82-73 edge with 3:01 to go in the game.
James Madison, 16-13 overall last year while playing in the Colonial Athletic Association, began clawing its way back with two minutes remaining as James Coleman and McLinton sank back-to-back field goals to pull the Dukes to within two with 47 seconds to go at 85-83.
Illinois State, one of the favorites to lead the Missouri Valley Conference this year, had a chance to seal the game, but Smiley was called for an offensive foul with 31 seconds to go as he pushed McLinton away with an elbow, setting the stage for an open three-pointer at the 16 second mark.
``It was the shot we were looking for and we got it,″ Driesell said. ``Darren had the hot hand and we wanted to open the floor for him.″
After the inbounds play, the Redbirds were brought the ball into their court quickly, but center Le Roy Watkins missed a layup. Trotter then recovered the loose ball, but McLinton stripped it with six seconds left to asure the victory.
James Madison, the tournament’s sixth seed, next will play the winner of the Auburn-La Salle game Friday night. Illinois State will take on the loser of that game.
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