For Ma­son’s Long, a sweet start to day

Se­nior guard scores 30 as Pa­tri­ots edge JMU in morn­ing game

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY STEVEN GOFF goffs@wash­post.com

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.”

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