Struggling Buffalo gets shot at No. 22 James Madison

With two true road games, two games at home and two at neutral sites, No. 22 James Madison has not had a November schedule typical of a Top 25 team.

Finally, the Dukes (6-0) get a schedule break with their next two games at home against teams with a combined one win. First up is Buffalo (1-5), which arrives Wednesday in Harrisonburg, Va.

After dominating Fresno State 95-64 in the championship game of the Cancun Challenge’s Riviera Division on Nov. 22 in Mexico, the Dukes return to the court following a six-day break.

“They gave out a trophy and we’re taking it back to Harrisonburg,” James Madison coach Mark Byington said. “I love the fact that we got some tournament feeling.”

After playing a rugged schedule that has included five teams that won at least 21 games last year, the competition will ease for the Dukes. All seven of their remaining opponents through the end of December currently have losing records and none is from a Power Six conference.

In Cancun, James Madison was led by Boston College transfer T.J. Bickerstaff, who took tournament MVP honors. In two tournament wins, Bickerstaff collected 34 points and 12 rebounds.

The 6-foot-9 forward was an efficient force around the basket, making 15 of 20 shots in the tournament, raising his field-goal rate to 66.1 percent for the season.

Noah Freidel was the star of the title game as he scored 26 points on 6-of-9 marksmanship from beyond the arc. The last time Freidel at least scored that many points in a game was in his freshman season, four years ago, when he was playing for South Dakota State.

Freidel’s scoring spree helped the Dukes dominate on a night when their top scorer, Terrence Edwards Jr., failed to reach double digits in points for the first time this year, scoring nine.

The previous night, Edwards hit 9 of 12 shots from the floor as he delivered 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. The Dukes needed Edwards’ best stuff to survive a challenge from Southern Illinois, winning 82-76.

As for Buffalo, its lone win came against Division II Roberts Wesleyan. The five losses for the Bison came against mid-major schools by an average margin of 17.4 points.

Buffalo also has had six days off after losing three games in as many days in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla.

The Bulls needed a breather after surrendering the game’s first 13 points and never making a run at Iona in an 89-64 defeat in the tournament’s seventh-place game.

Buffalo has inside presence with 6-8 Sy Chatman, a former UMass and Illinois State forward who led the Bulls against Iona with 14 points and five blocked shots.

Jonnivius Smith, a 6-9 forward who previously played at Seton Hall, had 12 points and 10 rebounds against Iona, posting his third double-double of the season.

One of the freshmen first-year coach George Halcovage III is counting on is Anquan Boldin Jr., son of the former NFL wide receiver, who is averaging 7.5 points and a team-high 1.8 steals per game.