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Mason makes it 11 straight, takes outright lead in CAA

The George Mason men’s basketball team overcame their first double-digit deficit at home this season and withstood a late charge to upend James Madison, 82-68, to match the school record for consecutive victories at 11 straight.

Coupled with VCU’s home loss to Old Dominion earlier Saturday, the Patriots (21-5, 13-2) occupy sole possession of first place in the Colonial Athletic Association standings. JMU falls to 18-9 (8-7 CAA) following the loss. The victory also ensures the Patriots no lower than the fourth seed and a first-round bye in next month’s CAA Championship.

The victory matches the streak of 11 consecutive victories set in the 1983-84 season, representing the second-longest active win streak in the nation. It also marked the 13th straight home victory for the Patriots, all this season, and the 18th double-digit win of the season by Mason.

Junior Ryan Pearson led a quartet of Patriots in double figures as the reigning CAA Player of the Week scored 15 points. Mike Morrison fell one short of a double-double in two categories, chipping in nine points and nine rebounds. Five JMU scorers reached double digits, led by 14 points from Julius Wells and Devon Moore.

Neither team led by more than a basket before a 10-0 run by the Dukes made it 12-4 with less than five minutes expired. Tate ended the run with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but the gap grew as large as 12 at 21-9 and again at 23-11. Mason would cut it to a one-possession game, thanks to an 11-2 run which left the score 27-25. The Patriots got it down to one and a driving layup by Hancock tied the game at 31 with less than three minutes left in the opening half.

Mason’s first lead since the early minutes of the contest came as Cornelius completed a 3-point play, making it 34-33 at the 2:02 mark. An 8-2 run by Mason expanded the lead to 39-35, and the Dukes added the final bucket of the half on a 3-pointer by Hitchens to set the halftime margin at 39-38.

Leading the way in the half was Vaughns, who hit three 3-points en route to 10 points, sparking a 21-to-4 scoring advantage off the bench for the Patriots. Bowles had 10 as well to pace the Dukes.

A 6-0 run out of the second half starting whistle gave Mason its largest lead of five. It would grow to 12 thanks to an 11-2 Mason run, and later in the half it was a 13-point difference. JMU cut the gap to seven at 68-61, but that would be the closest they could get as Mason added to their double-digit win total.