George Mason Patriots hold off James Madison with the help of a hot dog

By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 17, 2010

HARRISONBURG, VA. -- George Mason retained a share of first place in the Colonial Athletic Association because guards Cam Long and Andre Cornelius equaled their career highs in scoring. The Patriots defeated James Madison for the 12th time in 13 meetings because of devastating runs at the start of each half and a defensive scheme that quieted Dukes center Denzel Bowles.

But they will also attribute the 82-71 victory Saturday to a splattering hot dog.

The Dukes had sliced a 15-point deficit to four with 5 minutes 13 seconds remaining when Bowles went to the free throw line. While releasing the first attempt, a fan hurled the wiener and bun from the upper level of JMU Convocation Center.

As the shot missed, the snack broke into several pieces about 15 feet from where the players were standing along the lane. Fans pointed to the perpetrator, a purple-clad student, who was escorted away.

The officiating crew considered allowing Bowles to retake the shot, but because a JMU supporter was at fault, Bowles's miss stood and a technical foul was assessed on the home team, giving George Mason two free throws.

Long made both before Bowles converted his second attempt, leaving the Patriots with a lead of five instead of as little as two. Besides the scoring shift, the extended delay thwarted the momentum, and although the Dukes did pull within three two minutes later, their afternoon of playing from behind took a toll and allowed the Patriots (11-7, 6-1) to pull away for their fifth win in six games.

"It's silly, it's unexplainable, quite frankly," Dukes Coach Matt Brady said, no pun intended. "I don't know why anyone would have done it."

Said Patriots Coach Jim Larranaga: "Any interruption impacts the flow, but you don't know what would've happened if that didn't happen. It's unfortunate that it did, but I thought the officials eventually came to the right conclusion."

Long scored seven of his 24 points in the final 2:50, including a 17-footer that sparked a 7-0 run. He and Cornelius (19 points) combined to make 13 of 18 field goals, including 5 of 9 three-pointers, and 12 of 14 free throws.

The Patriots shot 52.8 percent, equaling their second-best performance of the season, and converted 19 of 25 free throws. The previous two games, they made a combined 23 of 42 from the line.

The result also reversed George Mason's woeful road trend: losses by an average of 26 points on the previous two trips.

"Coach L and myself were discussing about away games [and] that we just don't come with the energy," Long said. "Today we took in their crowd as our own. We came out at the beginning and got each other motivated."

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