With teams named James Madison and George Mason playing a basketball game last night it figured that a little history would be in order.

It almost was. George Mason lost at home, 54-37, and narrowly averted scoring its lowest point total since the school began playing basketball in 1970. The all-time low of 36 points registered against Randolph-Macon that year remains intact.

Not that the Patriots didn't threaten the record. They scored only 14 points in the first half, somehow trailing by only five, and made just five of 17 shots from the field. Things didn't get better in the second half, and Mason wound up shooting 29 percent.

The only sources of offense for the Patriots were freshmen guards Andy Bolden, who had 15 points, and John Niehoff, who had 12. Dave Skaff, their leading scorer this season with an 19.3 average, hit only one shot in eight tries.

"We really wanted to work for the good shots," said Mason Coach Joe Harrington, whose team lost its fourth straight after starting the season with three wins. "The strategy was to run the offense until we got the good shot and I don't think we ran the offense very well."

The Patriots again proved they cannot function properly without 6-foot-10 center Andre Gaddy and forward Terry Henderson, who are injured. Without last year's top two scorers, Mason has to slow the ball down, especially against a quick team such as the Dukes.

"If we had run, we might have scored 80 points," Harrington said. "But they would have scored 120."

Still, the Patriots were in the game six minutes into the second half, when Bolden canned a 15-footer to close the Madison advantage to 26-21.

But the Dukes (6-4), who were led by Charles Fischer's 16 points and Steve Blackmon's 12 ran off eight straight points to go ahead 34-21 with 11:14 play. The rest of the game was fun time for Madison.