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Cavaliers visit James Madison to start new season

Men's basketball team sans Nolte, Perrantes face Dukes in commonwealth battle

The Virginia men’s basketball team will tip off its 2014-15 regular season this Friday night at James Madison in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Last year, the No. 9 Cavaliers downed the Dukes 61-41 at John Paul Jones Arena in the season opener for both teams. Then-sophomore forward Anthony Gill scored a team-high 13 points that night, connecting on all five of his field goals, while then-junior forward Darion Atkins snagged 11 rebounds — four offensive — and contributed eight points in 18 minutes of play.

Gill and Atkins will see plenty of court time in Friday’s sequel, and the Virginia squad will look largely familiar — even without junior forward Evan Nolte and sophomore guard London Perrantes, who have been suspended for the game due to violations of team rules during the summer. But James Madison will bring a host of new faces to the matchup.

The Dukes said goodbye to three regular starters following the 2013-14 season: sophomore guard Charles Cooke, graduate student forward Andrey Semenov and sophomore forward Taylor Bessick. Cooke transferred to surprise 2014 Elite Eight participant Dayton after putting up 14.3 points and five rebounds in 35.1 minutes per game, while Bessick transferred to Iona. Semenov averaged 10.9 points and knocked down a team-high 47 3-pointers in his final year of NCAA eligibility.

James Madison (11-20, 6-10 CAA) boasts two talented returning guards in juniors Andre Nation and Ron Curry. But Dukes coach Matt Brady suspended Nation and sophomore forward Tom Vodanovich indefinitely for violation of team rules in early October after police cited both players for disorderly conduct and public swearing/intoxication.

Nation also missed last year’s matchup with Virginia, when he was hit with a 15-game suspension to start the year for a violation of athletic department policy. He returned to the lineup midway through the season to post team highs of 15.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Nation also blocked 14 shots in 14 games.

Curry will likely shoulder the offensive load in Nation’s absence. The Paul VI Catholic High School graduate put up 12.1 points, 3.6 boards and 3.4 assists in 30 starts last year, when he paced the Dukes in minutes per game at 35.4. Sophomore forward Paulius Satkus and sophomore guard Jackson Kent could also be factors against Virginia. Satkus scored 20 points with nine boards in the Dukes’ exhibition loss to Philadelphia University Sunday, Nov. 2 in Harrisonburg. Kent hit four 3-pointers en route to a 14-point afternoon.