James Madison pulls first 12-5 upset of March Madness by knocking off Wisconsin 72-61

NEW YORK (AP) — James Madison announced itself by beating a Big Ten team to start this season.

When the Dukes did it again to start their NCAA Tournament, they made sure everybody knew: “It's not an upset,” Xavier Brown yelled, popping his jersey in the middle of the celebration with teammates and in front of the fired-up JMU family section at Barclays Center.

Terrence Edwards Jr. scored 14 points and James Madison became the first 12 seed to advance in this March Madness, beating Wisconsin 72-61 on Friday night.

Not long after, Grand Canyon became the second No. 12 seed to win in the first round, knocking off fifth-seeded Saint Mary's in Spokane, Washington.

The Dukes (32-3) will face fourth-seeded Duke on Sunday in the second round of the South Region in Brooklyn, where the JMU fans made themselves right at home.

“Told the team, I’m proud of them, but not surprised,” James Madison coach Mark Byington said.

The Dukes had not been in the tournament since 2013, when they won a First Four game against LIU. Now, they are into the second round for the first time since 1983 — bringing with them a 14-game winning streak that is the longest in the nation.

Max Klesmit kept fifth-seeded Wisconsin (22-14) within striking distance with 18 second-half points. The Badgers were a 5 1/2-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Brown is right. The 12-5 upset hardly feels like an upset because it has happened so frequently in recent years — though not in last year's tournament. Counting JMU and Grand Canyon, eight 12 seeds have won first-round games in the last five tournaments.

“I tried to use the underdog strategy on Monday after the first practice and they weren’t paying attention to it,” Byington said.

Klesmit cut the JMU lead to six with 8:54 left, but Noah Freidel answered with a 3-pointer about a minute later for JMU to make it 55-46.

The Badgers never got closer than seven again, and the chants of “J-M-U” echoed through Barclays Center as if it was the Atlantic Union Bank Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

“AUBC is so loud and tonight it felt like we were in the AUBC again,” Freidel said. “They showed out.”

Edwards said his parents traveled up from Atlanta to see him play and booked the trip to be in New York for Sunday's games.

“So it was only right that we get this win today so we can just fill out their trip,” Edwards said.

James Madison opened the season with victory at Michigan State in November that moved the Dukes in the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history.

The Dukes kept on winning, though playing in the Sun Belt Conference they fell out of spotlight and the rankings before moving back in on the strength of their long winning streak.

“We kind of heard things about our schedule not being tough and who we are,” Byington said. “And we knew we belonged.”

Only defending national champion and top-seeded UConn has won as many games this season as James Madison.

“Even more impressive in person than they were on film and I was really impressed with them on film,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “Their pressure bothered us.”

James Madison controlled the first half with its defense, leading by as much 17 before heading to halftime up 33-20.

“They were just the more aggressive team,” Wisconsin guard Chucky Hepburn said. “They kind of just shocked us to start the game and we didn’t handle it very well."

The Dukes had the Badgers all out of sorts. JMU had 10 steals, forced 13 turnovers in 36 possessions and held the Badgers to 26% percent shooting, with more than a few misses coming in traffic at the rim.

“That's pretty futile,” Gard said.

Klesmit gave the Badgers an offensive spark in the second half with four 3-pointers in the first eight minutes, but the Dukes were unfazed.

T.J. Bickerstaff had 12 points and nine rebounds and Julien Wooden added 12 points for the Dukes.

“I would just say we are not scared of competition. We proved that over and over again,” Bickerstaff said.

UP NEXT

The Dukes have never played Duke, but they can hardly wait.

“If you saw me right after the game, I wanted to run to the locker room and start getting ready for Duke,” Byington said.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness