For Mason’s Long, a sweet start to day
Senior guard scores 30 as Patriots edge JMU in morning game
harrisonburg, va. — For breakfast before George Mason’s Saturday morning tip-off against James Madison, Patriots senior Cam Long munched on a couple of mini-boxes of
Lucky Charms. For lunch, he feasted on the Dukes.
Luck had little to do with
Long’s performance, a careerhigh 30 points that propelled the Patriots to a 75-73 victory, which extended his team’s winning streak to four and handed the Dukes with their first setback at JMU Convocation Center this season.
Long made 8 of 9 field goal attempts, including all four three-pointers, and 10 of 13 free throws, to surpass his previous high of 27 at Hofstra last year. He added a game-high five assists and four rebounds as the Patriots (14-5, 6-2 Colonial Athletic Association) defeated the Dukes (15-5, 5-3) for the 14th time in the past 15 meetings.
“When he’s killing it like that,” teammate Luke Hancock said, “you just give him the ball, do what you can to help him out and watch him work.”
Long’s four points in the late stages repelled the Dukes in a gripping game that saw outstanding shooting in the second half and drastic momentum shifts in both periods. The 11 a.m. starting time was dictated by ESPNU’s coverage, the network’s first visit to Harrisonburg in 16 seasons. Upon entering the arena, the sleepy student body was offered free bagels, muffins and coffee.
Nothing packed as much punch, apparently, as Long’s choice of sugary cereal at the team hotel.
With an assertive drive into the lane, he extended George Mason’s lead to 70-66 with one minute left. The Dukes closed to within two again before Ryan
Pearson (14 points) made 3 of 4 free throws and JMU’s Humpty
Hitchens hit a pair with 11 seconds left. Long then made 1 of 2 free throws for a four-point edge, silencing the purple-clad crowd of 5,714.
After Andrey Semenov’s three-pointer with less than a second left, Long made the first free throw and missed the second, resulting in a deflection that ended JMU’s hopes.
The Patriots shot 67 percent in the second half to overcome an eight-point deficit, and despite JMU’s rotating schemes to disrupt Long, the 6-foot-4 guard penetrated effectively and made all five field goal attempts.
“Once you get the confidence level, it didn’t faze me,” he said of JMU’s tactics. “I knew they were going to switch different people on me every time because they were going to try to wear me out, but as the game goes on like that, I have all the energy in the world at that point.”
Dukes forward Denzel Bowles had 21 points, 14 rebounds, 6 blocked shots and 4 assists. At 6-10 and 260 pounds, the Texas A&M transfer was a force when he collected the ball in the lane against a single defender, drawing fouls on Mason’s big men. When forced outside, his displayed a shooting touch that belies his size.
Impressive numbers aside, however, the Patriots crowded him regularly and forced him into five turnovers.
Mason led most of the first half, building an eight-point advantage before settling for a one-point margin at intermission. Long, averaging 21 points and shooting 67 percent in the past five games, made three three-pointers and had 13 points before the break.
The Patriots struggled at the start of the second half. Mike Morrison, the onlyMason regular to counter Bowles’s height, committed three fouls in two minutes and retreated to the bench.
The Dukes, who shot 55 percent after halftime, surged to a 50-42 lead with 12 minutes left and seemed on the verge of pulling away whenMason sixth man Isaiah Tate (12 points on 5-of-5 shooting) instigated a 17-2 run with 10 points, including two three-pointers.
Just as quickly as they seized the lead, the Patriots watched it dissolve. The Dukes were within one with 61/ minutes to go
2 and missed a chance to go ahead before Long answered with a free throw and a driving basket. JMU cut the margin to two with 1 minute 22 seconds left when Devon Moore missed a bank shot, allowing Long and the Patriots to seal it.
As he exited the interview room, a smiling Long said, “I’m going to start eating Lucky Charms from now on.”