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James Madison tops Delaware 70-45 to win CAA

Sunday - 3/16/2014, 7:43pm  ET

JOSEPH WHITE
AP Sports Writer

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. -- At the end of a funky dance move when she was introduced with the starting lineups, James Madison's Kirby Burkholder performed her signature move -- thumb and index finger making a circle around one eye, with the other three fingers extended.

The era of Elena Delle Donne's domination is over in the CAA. It was time for another team to steal the show.

Conference player of the year Burkholder had 11 points, seven rebounds and four steals, Jazmon Gwathmey had a career-high 20 points and tied a career-high with 14 rebounds, and the top-seeded Dukes beat two-time defending champion Delaware 70-45 Sunday to win the conference tournament and earn the school's first to the NCAA tournament since 2011.

Precious Hall added 14 points for the Dukes (28-5), who outhustled the Blue Hens (20-10) to loose balls and dominated the boards. James Madison forced 22 turnovers, had a 24-15 advantage in offensive rebounds and led 38-18 at halftime. During one sequence late in the first half, Burkholder made a steal at one end and saved the ball from going out of bounds at the other end, a play that eventually led to a pair of free throws from teammate Toia Giggets.

On the next possession, Burkholder sliced through the Delaware defense as if she were skiing a slalom course to finish a layup that gave the Dukes a 16-point lead.

Gwathmey was even more dominant. Seven of her rebounds were on the offensive end, and she went 8 for 10 from the free-throw line.

Delaware won the last two CAA titles and earned a regular spot in the Top 25 behind Delle Donne, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the WNBA draft a year ago. The Blue Hens are still competitive -- they were the No. 2 seed after posting a 10-6 regular season conference record -- but Della Donne's departure opened the door for senior guard Burkholder and the Dukes, who rolled to a 15-1 record and swept through the tournament by winning three games by an average of 16.7 points. Burkholder set a tournament record with 22 rebounds in the semifinal win over Drexel.

Burkholder uses her hand-to-the-eye move to celebrate her 3-pointers, and she's made a league- high 106 of them this season. She only went 1 for 7 from 3-point range Sunday, instead making her bigger contribution to a defensive effort that held the Blue Hens to eight field goals in the first half and 31 percent shooting for the game.

Akeema Richards scored 12 points to lead Delaware. Kelsey Buchanan, who averaged 17.5 points in her first two tournament games, finished with six points on 2-for- 12 shooting and committed eight turnovers.

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP


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