The Colonels had a timeout left.
They decided not to use it, though, after James Madison took a one-point lead with six seconds left in regulation on Tuesday at McBrayer Arena.
“We wanted to let them play,” EKU coach A.W. Hamilton said.
The Colonels (3-1) got an excellent look at the basket on that final play, but Devontae Blanton’s lay-up just before the buzzer wouldn’t fall, allowing the Dukes (3-0) to hold on for a 79-78 win.
Jannson Williams had a season-best 21 points, five rebounds and three blocks before fouling out and four other EKU players reached double-figures in scoring, including 15 points from Curt Lewis. The Colonels also hit 13 three-pointers and led for more than 37 minutes.
The Dukes, however, got a putback from Charles Falden on their last possession, which put them in front for the first time since the opening minutes.
“I think we played one heck of a game. I think JMU did as well. It just sucks how it ended,” Williams said.
After the Dukes took the lead, Cooper Robb inbounded the ball to Jomaru Brown, who drove up the right side of the court and into the lane before dishing off to Blanton.
“(Devontae) just missed a bunny,” Hamilton said.
The shot didn’t fall, but the EKU coach was pleased with the aggressiveness and execution his team showed on the final play.
“I trust Cooper Robb as much as I trust anybody,” Hamilton said. “I told him after the game, ‘The next time we get in that position again, I’m going to let you take the ball out again.’”
The Colonels led by 10 points several times and took a 47-40 lead into halftime.
Williams had 18 points in the first half. The redshirt senior transfer from Marshall ran into foul trouble after the break, though. The forward played only seven minutes in the second half.
The Dukes took advantage of the absence of Williams. They out-rebounded the Colonels 24-19 in the second half, including a 6-5 advantage on the offensive glass, and had 24 points in the paint.
“It just came down to offensive rebounds,” Blanton said. “You’ve got to give them credit for attacking the glass.”
The Dukes led only three times — 2-0, 4-3 and 79-78 — and were in front for a total of just 60 seconds.
JMU pulled even (75-75) on a Terrence Edwards basket with 3:06 left in regulation. Braxton Beverly put the Colonels back in front with a three-pointer, but two free throws from Vado Morse got the Dukes within a point.
Falden’s putback was the only field goal for either team in the 1:51 of regulation.
“I don’t want those kids to hang their heads,” Hamilton said. “They’ve got a lot to be proud of. We are going to come back fighting and we are going to get better because of this.”
Blanton had 14 points, four assists and nine rebounds. Brown had 10 points. Beverly had 10 points and five rebounds. Robb had four points and Michael Moreno had three points.
Morse had a team-best 20 points for the Dukes.
The Colonels shot 40 percent from the field (13-of-35 from three-point range) and went 9-of-11 from the free throw line.
EKU is set to return to action Saturday at home against Albany.