Senior scored career-high 30 points to lead GMU over rival

HARRISONBURG, Va. — George Mason faced its most pressure-packed test this season – a rare 11 a.m. start on the road, before a deafening crowd, a national-television audience, and against its improved arch-rival, who was desperately seeking a signature victory.

So how did the Patriots' leader prepare? The breakfast of champions, of course -- Lucky Charms cereal.

The way Cam Long played Saturday at James Madison, he may never eat anything else. Scoring a career-high 30 points and dishing five assists, Long propelled Mason to a 75-73 victory before 5,714 at raucous JMU Convocation Center.

The 6-foot-4 senior hit 8 of 9 shots from the floor, including all four of his 3-point tries, and made 10 of 13 from the free-throw line. Long scored eight of Mason’s first 11 points, and nine of their 16 in the last six minutes, as the Patriots beat the Dukes for the 14th time in their last 15 meetings.

“Getting up real early, there’s a lot that goes through your head, cause you’re tired,” said Long. “Just trying to find the energy level.”

With a mainline dose of sugar, Long found it.

Up next
George Mason at Delaware
When » Monday, 9 p.m.
Where » Acierno Arena, Newark
» Delaware (10-8, 5-3) ended a 23-game road losing streak a week ago at Towson when freshman G Devon Saddler, then a 15 percent shooter from the arc, drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer for a 66-63 win … On Saturday, Delaware G Jawan Carter did the same at Georgia State in a 64-62 win ... Carter (16.4 ppg) is the only Delaware player scoring in double figures ... After averaging 12.4 points and 5.3 rebounds his first three seasons, 6-4 G Alphonso Dawson (7.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg) is struggling … Mason beat Delaware 75-66 in Fairfax on Jan. 3 ... This is the second of four games in an eight-day stretch for both teams.

“That’s why he’s first-team CAA,” said JMU guard Devon Moore, who guarded Long. “He’s been here. He’s a senior. He knows how to play the game. He’s a great player.”

Long got a major assist from senior guard Isaiah Tate (12 points), who hit all five of his shots, including three straight as he scored half the points in a 14-0 second half run, which started with Mason trailing by eight points.

“Ike came up to me earlier. He was like, ‘Yo, give me the ball,’” said Long. “When somebody says [that], you can trust in them. You can be confident in what they’ll be able to do.”

Madison (15-5, 5-3) got a huge game from 6-10 Denzel Bowles, who led the Dukes in points (21), rebounds (14), blocks (6), and assists (4). But he was the second-best player on the floor on Saturday.

When Mason (14-5, 6-2) was getting its bearings in the most intimidating atmosphere it has faced, Long hit two 3-pointers in the first three minutes. When GMU fell behind, 50-42, in the second half, Long drove and dished to Mike Morrison for an uplifting dunk, then hit a 3-pointer, triggering the 14-point run. When Mason needed one final boost, it was Long who kept the Patriots in charge with four points in the final 58 seconds.

“It didn’t faze me none,” said Long. “With the game on the line like that, I felt I had all the energy in the world.”

Thanks to the Charms.

It was the second straight disappointing loss for Madison, which fell Wednesday at defending CAA champion Old Dominion. The Dukes were on the verge of their breakthrough Saturday, leading 50-42, and with Morrison (four fouls) on the bench.

But 11 seconds after he returned to the floor, Morrison scored his dunk, which ignited the rally. Morrison, a 6-9 junior, also contributed solid defensive work against Bowles during the 14-0 run as the senior committed two of his five turnovers.

“We played hard. I don’t think we always played well,” said Madison coach Matt Brady. “We didn’t always play smart. That’s kind of how we are.”

After Tate gave Mason its biggest lead, 59-52, with a three-pointer, JMU retaliated with baskets on its next three possessions to pull to within a point, 59-58. But the Dukes would get no closer. The Patriots remained efficient, putting the ball in the hands of Long, who continually delivered. In the final six minutes, Mason scored on nine of 12 possessions, with Long continually driving to the hoop.

“They showed their mental toughness. They got down. They never got flustered,” said Brady. “They spaced the floor and they drove it. We knew coming into the game we had to stay in front of guys. We didn’t stay in front of anybody. That was the key to the game.”

Notes: It was Madison's first home loss this season after nine wins ... Mason overcame a 37-24 rebounding deficit .. Mason shot 67 percent in the second half after hitting 35 percent in the first ... The Patriots were 8 of 16 (50 percent) from the arc ... Junior forward Ryan Pearson (14 points, 6 rebounds) and sophomore Luke Hancock (11 points, 3 assists) also contributed for Mason … Junior forwards Julius Wells (11 points, 3 assists) and Rayshawn Goins (10 points, 9 rebounds) contributed for Madison along with junior Humpty Hitchens and sophomores Devon Moore and Andrey Semenov (Montrose Christian), who had nine points each.