Long Beach State Wins Running Away : College basketball: The 49ers get the best of George Mason and its fast-paced game, 98-84.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The pace, fun yet frantic, was exactly what George Mason likes. Given a choice, Long Beach State won't play it that way.

But the 49ers adapted just fine for one night.

The 49ers beat the Patriots at their own gimmick game Friday night, racing and dunking to a 98-84 nonconference victory in front of 2,655 at the Pyramid.

"We kept our poise and played the way I wanted us to play," Coach Seth Greenberg said. "I thought we did a great job of getting the tempo the way we wanted it. We did a good job of attacking their press."

George Mason (3-4), the nation's scoring leader, gives up easy shots in bunches with its run-and-gun style. Long Beach (5-3) didn't waste many opportunities, maintaining a comfortable lead throughout the second half.

The 49ers handled the Patriots' press pretty well. Once the 49ers got the ball past midcourt, the Patriots' defense usually disappeared.

Led by guard James Cotton and forward Juaquin Hawkins, Long Beach led at halftime, 55-48. Cotton scored 18 of his 26 points in the first half, including a nifty layup at the buzzer.

By halftime, Hawkins already had a season-high 13 points. He had excellent all-around game, finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Kenwan Alford led George Mason with 20 points.

Cotton has played exceptionally well the last two games. He had 25 points in an 86-69 nonconference victory over St. Mary's on Tuesday, and made several impressive shots from short and long range against George Mason.

He maneuvered through the Patriots' defense and made a 15-footer to give Long Beach a 76-66 lead with 9:42 to go in the game. Cotton and point guard Rasul Salahuddin, who had 16 points and five assists, fared well in their individual matchups with speedy, high-scoring Patriot guards Nate Langley and Curtis McCants.

Langley scored 16 points, seven fewer than his season average, and was ejected with 3:42 to play in the game after receiving a technical foul for arguing a call. McCants had 14 points and five assists in the first half, and finished with 17 points and six assists.

Long Beach took a 38-24 first-half lead on a layup by starting center Gerry Branner with 10:16 to play. However, as often happens, the Patriots ran back into it. For awhile, anyway.

They took a 42-38 lead on a three-pointer by guard Contrel Scott with 5:08 remaining in the half. Quickly, though, the Patriots' defense caught up with them and the 49ers had more fun.

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