Little had gone wrong for James Madison this season. Then it hit Duke.

NEW YORK – Throughout the season, en route to a program-record 32 wins, James Madison never had to tie the series. Each of the Dukes’ three losses were within 10 points. When they faced power conference teams, they believed they were better and proved it by beating Michigan State in November and Wisconsin in the Round of 64 at Barclays Center on Friday night.

As the No. 12 seed in this NCAA men’s basketball tournament, they felt slighted. They were probably right.

But proverbs have a good reason. In fact, there is a first time for most things. On Sunday, in the round of 32, JMU won 93:55 Lost to Duke. His players competed until the final buzzer of the season despite a tied result. They brought down the gangs on the offensive. They sprinted up and down. Duke, however – the fourth-ranked, blue-blooded Duke – was far too much to handle. Freshman guard Jared McCain scored 30 points Points, 8 of 11 shot from three. When James Madison left a Blue Devil open, he often scored. Duke made 14 three-pointers while shooting 50 percent, while JMU had four of them. That accounted for 30 points of the final difference.

“It didn’t go the way we wanted,” said JMU guard Terrence Edwards Jr. “But we appreciate the support and now everyone across the country knows who JMU is. That’s why we do it.”

It took less than two minutes for JMU to enter the danger zone. It happened like this: Edwards and Kyle Filipowski battled on the block. Edwards really didn’t want the 7-foot center to get in position. But Edwards, JMU’s leading scorer and the brains of the ball-sharing offense, tried a little too hard to prevent that. Their arms crossed and a referee blew his whistle. Edwards was sent off for his second foul.

After JMU beat Wisconsin on Friday, three players noted how relaxed their defensive intensity had increased. This game was immediately described as being much closer. So Edwards walked to the bench, shaking his head. And over the next six minutes, before checking back in, Duke built a 10-point lead. McCain couldn’t miss, making his first six attempts out of three. The Blue Devils had their way in the paint.

Near the end of the half, after Filipowski scored on consecutive possessions, JMU coach Mark Byington called another timeout. Honestly, it seemed like his only chance to slow Duke down was to discuss everything while the mascots started a dance competition. Duke Dog, naked except for his purple cape, shuffled a bit in midfield. The Blue Devil answered with the worm. When they were finished and there was a little more time to kill, a winner was chosen for each contestant based on audience noise.

The arena went crazy for the almost naked dog. Most people booed for the Blue Devil. Aside from the JMU fans, everyone who was there for Connecticut vs. Northwestern and later tipped off threw their full weight behind James Madison (or wherever they had to go to avoid rooting for Duke). Hating the Blue Devils is a March tradition, like baseball spring training or your office bracket pool. But in the end, narratives don’t win basketball games. Three, muscle and defensive rotations are enough.

On Friday, James Madison had all that in Wisconsin, giving the impression of being a Cinderella team with further travel plans. Then Duke showed up.

“You could tell they were on our heels,” forward Julien Wooden said of Duke’s hot start. “They put us in a hole. It was hard to get out of there.”

The ending looked very similar to the beginning. Edwards continued to attack, hitting two floaters and a layup to start the second half. But the Blue Devils didn’t let up. McCain let loose and hit his first three-pointer of the second half. Two possessions later, Filipowski hit a layup through a foul and then screamed at the ceiling. When Noah Freidel blocked Mark Mitchell on a quick counterattack and hit the Duke forward at the rim, there was the slightest sign of life at JMU. Freidel, not interested in celebrating, clapped once. The bench stood up and screamed. But moments later, Filipowski made a pass to Tyrese Proctor, who scored a corner three-pointer while falling to Duke’s bench.

Proctor’s teammates surrounded him and made him disappear into a crowd of white shirts. Again, after taking one step forward, James Madison fell back five more. With less than eight minutes left, Freidel hit a three-pointer in front of his team’s bench, cutting the deficit from 34 to 31. The JMU crowd, so loud all weekend, cheered without shouting much. Freidel’s shirt had now slipped out of his pants and his face was bleeding a little from a small cut on his cheek.

As for the final pictures, they weren’t fair compared to the rest of JMU’s season. The Dukes dominated their conference. By mistreating Wisconsin, they introduced themselves to the world. But of the 68 teams that play in March Madness, 67 end in defeat, no matter what happened before. Then they hope to appreciate the rest in time.

“It was an extremely difficult night for us,” Byington said. “When things come to an end, it’s never a good feeling.”

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