A 44-game win streak ends

JMU's Kirby Burkholder gets a steal in an 87-51 win over Delaware.

JMU’s Kirby Burkholder gets a steal in an 87-51 win over Delaware.

This is the game story from JMU’s 87-51 win over Delaware on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014. JMU ended Delaware’s 44-game conference win streak, and Kirby Burkholder had a career-high 33 points for Madison. The story ran Jan. 13, 2013.

HARRISONBURG, Va. — James Madison women’s basketball coach Kenny Brooks calls it “The Rondo” after Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo.

It’s a move Brooks taught Kirby Burkholder, and it involves ball-faking one direction and going another with the shot. It’s a move Burkholder has, apparently, mastered with a Jedi-like precision.

“I’ve been working on that,” said Burkholder, grinning. “Coach Brooks’ specialty.”

JMU’s star senior shooting guard used it — and probably some others James Naismith never imagined —  en route to a career-high 33 points, leading the Dukes in an 87-51 obliterating of two-time defending Colonial Athletic Association champion Delaware on Sunday in front of a 3,191 fans at the Convocation Center.

The loss ended the Blue Hens’ 44-game CAA win streak, which started after a 67-61 loss to JMU in the 2011 Colonial championship game. Sunday’s 36-point victory was the most lopsided in the 26-game history of the series. The previous record was 27 points in an 84-57 JMU victory on Feb. 1, 2004, also at the Convo.

“We wanted this game bad,” said Burkholder, the CAA’s leading scorer. “We hadn’t beaten them in a while. We lost to them there the last two or three times. They had a 44-, 45-game win streak, and that was all the motivation to get this win.”

The series is now tied 13-13. The teams first met in 1997, and Delaware had won three straight.

“When you lose as many kids as we lost, the streak — and I mean this sincerely — … it’s irrelevant,” said Delaware coach Tina Martin, whose team lost six seniors, including CAA career scoring leader and current WNBA star Elena Delle Donne. “We had a great run. We had a magical run. We were undefeated for two years. Nobody beat us, and so yeah, it’s going to come to an end.”

In the second half Sunday, the Dukes (11-4 overall, 1-0 in the CAA) blew open what had been a close game with the Hens (10-4, 2-1). JMU went ahead for good in the first half at the 16:48 mark but never led by more than eight points. At halftime, it was 27-24 Madison, which trailed for less than three minutes in the game.

But the Dukes, sparked by Burkholder, dominated the second half, outscoring Delaware 60-27, thanks to runs of 13-2, 17-5 and 13-2. They also shot 62.5 percent (20-for-32) in the period.

Burkholder, despite missing practice until Saturday after twisting an ankle, scored 17 of her 33 points after halftime, sinking two 3-pointers in the opening three minutes to stretch JMU’s lead to double digits for the first time.

The 6-foot veteran and CAA Preseason Player of the Year made 10 of 18 field goals and seven of 12 3-pointers to tie her career high. The Turner Ashby High School graduate also went 6-for-7 at the free-throw line and had five rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal. Sunday was Burkholder’s CAA-leading seventh game this season with 20 points or more. It is only the third time this season a CAA player has scored more than 30.

“She was just a shooter as a sophomore. Last year, you started to see her starting to read defenses a little bit better and start to drive the ball more,” Martin said. “And now this year, she’s got a real nice game. She can shoot it. She can put it on the floor. She reads the screens pretty well, but she should. She’s a senior. Coach Brooks wouldn’t be doing his job if she hadn’t gotten any better.”

Burkholder surpassed her career-high of 28 points with 5:48 left in the game — and she used “The Rondo” to do it. She faked left just inside the foul line before going right and throwing up the most delicate of hook shots while falling toward the JMU bench.

“You look at Rajon Rondo; he gets in the lane; he does a little ball fake — and I think he probably stole it from Hakeem Olajuwon, but it’s still a good ball fake,” Brooks said. “She turns around and she’s got the basket within eight feet, I think [the shot’s got] a real good chance of going in.”

Junior forward Toia Giggetts and sophomore guard Precious Hall each had 16 points for JMU, which had 24 assists (sophomore point guard Angela Mickens tied her career high with eight) and just nine turnovers. The Hens had eight assists and 20 turnovers but out-rebounded Madison 44-39. The Dukes entered Sunday’s game with the best rebounding margin (plus-11.9) in the CAA.

Nikki Newman, starting her 100th game for JMU, added eight points but was as omnipresent as someone can be on a basketball court. The 6-foot-2 forward had 11 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks while making herself a dedicated nuisance in Delaware’s passing lanes.

“I don’t think we’ve ever gone into a game this season, thinking we can’t beat somebody,” said Newman, a fifth-year senior and a TA grad. “Speaking for myself, the last time Delaware lost was the CAA championship that we won. And I remember playing in that game, obviously, but their 44-game win streak, that was all the talk coming in. They’re defending CAA champs, and I think all of us feel like they have something that’s ours. And we wanted to come out and prove a point tonight, and I think we did that.”

NOTE: JMU sophomore swingman Jazmon Gwathmey and sophomore forward Destiny Jones both missed Sunday’s game with concussions.

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