JMU hosted their 3rd annual Pumpkin Smash tournament on Sunday which featured JMU, UVA, Towson, and VCU. There were a lot of headlines going into the tournament, including JMU and UVA’s first official games of the season and Towson’s chance to knock off JMU at the top of the East Coast Region. That being said, the biggest piece to take away from the tournament is that JMU still holds control of the East Coast at the moment, but definitely not by the margins they are historically used to.
During their highly anticipated matchup, both JMU and Towson certainly brought their best effort. It started with a solid first half by Towson where they jumped out to a 2-0 lead. This was in large part from some aggressive team play and catching that put the Dukes in an uncomfortable position for almost all of the first half. Despite the halftime deficit, JMU bounced back in dramatic fashion, scoring 3 straight points and holding on in the final minutes to come out on top. The 3-2 victory was JMU’s most important win of the afternoon, and proved that they have the tools and players necessary to make a deep run in April.
There were a lot of positives for Towson to take away from the weekend even with the loss. JMU has one of the strongest set of arms out any team in the NCDA, but Towson was able to neutralize them effectively during the first half. While catching has never been an issue for Towson, there were some thoughts about whether or not they would be able to maintain it against teams with stronger arms. Towson was able to handle it just fine, and put the game in their favor for the entire first half. Going forward, the biggest thing for them is going to be getting more and more experience against highly rated competition in order to bring out the most potential in this team.
Another team that can take away some good things from this weekend is UVA. The Cavaliers came into the tournament as serious underdogs, competing in only their second tournament in program history. However, they showed some bright spots and flashes of brilliance at different times throughout the day. They’ve got players who can move up and down the court very well, and also have some solid arms on their team as well. Once they are able to develop a strategy that fits their play style, they will be able to compete with anyone in the league.
For now, JMU has control of the East Coast, and finishes the tournament as the only undefeated team in the league that has played this season (granted a very small sample size). Towson is not far behind however, and it will be interesting to see where Penn State falls into the mix once they are bale to come out to a tournament. At this point though, it is safe to say the East Coast has continued to get better as a whole, and will continue to get better in the foreseeable future.