Everyone from here to the Alps knows the key to beating George Mason is to stop high-scoring Carlos Yates. Defense-oriented James Madison didn't stop Yates (24 points) but totally shut down his teammates and easily dealt the Patriots a bitter 54-43 defeat in an ECAC South game last night before 2,800 at George Mason Fieldhouse.

JMU improved its overall mark to 14-9 and 4-2 in the conference. GMU fell to 13-8 and 3-4 in the ECAC.

Yates, who committed three fouls and had only six points in the first half, was all the offense the hosts had last night. Yates' outside shooting against a very effective Dukes' 1-3-1 zone kept GMU close the first five minutes of the second half. Yates' fallaway jump shot and two foul shots pulled the Patriots close at 33-31 with 13:47 left in the game.

At that point, Yates' teammates let him and the partisan enthusiastic crowd down. For the remainder of the game, it was Yates against the world and Madison. The other GMU players missed all 15 field goal tries from the floor and the Dukes slowly took control. Except for Rob Rose's two foul shots with two seconds left, Yates scored Mason's final 14 points.

"We weren't totally concentrating on Yates he scored 36 points in an earlier 68-66 loss but we didn't want him to get too many," said guard Charles Fisher of the Dukes. "We were hoping to force the other guys to shoot."

The stategy worked. Each time a GMU player missed, the visitors rebounded and went into their patient clock-consuming offense. All five Duke players contributed during a 9-4 (Yates had GMU's four) run that gave the Dukes a 42-35 lead with 9:11 remaining.

"The game wasn't that slow," Coach Joe Harrington of the Patriots said, referring to his team's 29 percent shooting from the floor. "We just didn't get any scoring. Give credit to Madison. They changed defenses against us a lot, kept us off balance. When we got a shot, we rushed it. We took some poor shots in the second half."

Once JMU got ahead, Derek Steele, former all-Met from Mount Vernon, Fisher and David Dupont were able to play keep away long enough to earn an uncontested layup or a foul shot.

Yates scored six points in the game's final two minutes but the Dukes more than offset that with four points each from Steele and Dupont, who finished with 11 points and moved into 12th place on the school's career scoring list. Dupont's four straight points gave JMU a 52-37 lead with less than a minute to play and assured the visitors of their 11th consecutive victory over the Patriots. Steele had nine points.

"We played pretty good defense, Coach Lou Campanelli said of his Dukes, who were fourth nationally in defense (allowing 54.3 points per game) coming into last night's game. "Our 1-3-1 defense was very effective against Yates for the most part. We came into the game hoping it would work. It did and we stuck with it."