Local college basketball previews
Where: Patriot Center.
TV: Comcast SportsNet.
Radio: WTNT (570 AM).
Records: Patriots 14-7, 9-1 CAA; Dukes 10-11, 3-7.
What rivalry?: The Patriots have won six straight and share first place with Old Dominion, which has an eight-game unbeaten streak heading into Saturday's visit to Northeastern (8-2). The rivalry with James Madison has been one-sided of late, with George Mason winning 12 of 13, including six in a row in Fairfax. Three-point shooting has been critical to the Patriots' surge: They have made 35 of 76 attempts (46.1 percent) the past four games. Junior guard Cam Long is 13 of 20 during that stretch and sophomore guard Andre Cornelius is second in the CAA at 45.3 percent (34 of 75).
Pearson back: After sitting out Wednesday's game against Delaware with a hamstring ailment, sophomore forward Ryan Pearson, the Patriots' second-leading scorer (12.4 points) and top rebounder (6.7), is likely to return to the starting lineup, according to university officials. Though the team missed Pearson's presence, his absence allowed Louis Birdsong, GMU's only senior, to reestablish himself in the rotation after playing sparingly the past two months. Birdsong had season highs in points (11), rebounds (seven) and blocked shots (three), and tied a career high with three assists against Delaware. He moved into sixth place in program history for blocks (92).
Dukes bounce back: Despite being beset by injuries all season, James Madison appears to be gaining traction with consecutive wins, including a 65-63 decision over visiting William & Mary on Wednesday as Denzel Bowles and Julius Wells combined for 36 points and 15 rebounds. Since becoming eligible in December, the 6-foot-10 Bowles is averaging 21.1 points and 9.6 rebounds and shooting 58.1 percent. Wells is averaging 16.8 points and has made a league-high 62 three-pointers.
-- Steven Goff