The victory sends the Dukes (13-19) to Saturday's quarterfinal round, where they will meet third-seeded William & Mary at 8:30 p.m. Drexel dropped to 16-16 with the loss.
JMU senior guard Pierre Curtis (Denver, Colo.) added 19 points, 15 of which came in first half, and sophomore Julius Wells (Toledo, Ohio) chipped in 18 points for the Dukes. Freshman Chris Fouch (New York, N.Y.) led four Drexel players in double digits with 20 points and backcourt mate Jamie Harris (New York, N.Y.) netted 15.
Drexel jumped out to an early 11-4 advantage, but JMU pulled within two, at 19-17. Curtis then scored 10 of the next 12 points for the Dukes to cap a 12-4 run, giving JMU a 29-23 lead with 2:47 left in the first half. The Dukes took a 33-27 lead into the locker room.
The Dukes stretched the lead to 39-29 early in the second half. Bowles, who scored 15 of his 22 points in the final 20 minutes, reeled off five straight points to give JMU a 57-46 lead with eight minutes left. Drexel got as close as five when Fouch nailed a jumper to make it 60-55 with 5:14 to go, but the Dukes sealed the game at the free throw line.
JMU finished the game 28-of-39 from the line (71.8%) and shot 48.9% from the floor. Drexel, meanwhile, hit just 34.4% from the floor and 58.8% at the charity stripe.
The Dukes won a first-round game for the second year in a row. It was also the second straight season that a #11 seed pulled a first-round upset in the tournament.