Brian T. Chan, Sports Editor

Head Coach Jim Larranaga has always praised Louis Birdsong’s athleticism. On Wednesday night, the senior forward received the starting nod and thrived from all angles as the men’s basketball team topped the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens 77-66 to win its 16th consecutive home game against a conference opponent.

Mason jumped out to an early 12-2 lead, and after the Blue Hens closed the gap to 14-10, the Patriots regained its composure and went on a 17-0 run. Coming off a three-game road trip, the team’s offensive explosion had not gone away, going into halftime with a 38-17 lead.

In the first half, Mason shot on all cylinders, making 6-of-10 shots from long distance. Sophomore guard Andre Cornelius had the hot hand with 12 points on 3-of-4 from behind the arc in the first half.

For the first 20 minutes, the defense completely locked down on the Blue Hens’ two leading scorers: guards Jawan Carter and Alphonso Dawson. Both players combined for just 1-of-12 shooting and two points.

“In the first half, everyone had good intensity,” said Cornelius. “We [were] playing good defense, and we let down a little bit in the second half, but we picked it back up again in the last five minutes.”

The Patriots held the Blue Hens to a 23.3 field goal percentage and blocked seven shots. Birdsong recorded all three of his blocks in the first half.

“[Birdsong is] very aggressive defensively in defending his man, but he also likes to come over and block shots when someone gets beat, so I think he played a typical ‘Louis Birdsong’ game,” said Larranaga. “It was a normal game for him, but he played a lot of minutes tonight.”

Birdsong, who played 24 minutes in the previous three games, logged in a season-high 29 minutes in the win over the Blue Hens.

Birdsong filled in as a starter for sophomore forward Ryan Pearson, who was out with a strained hamstring.

“The main thing was to step up because [Pearson] was averaging double figures, and he has been rebounding and playing defense, so I had to make up for that,” said Birdsong.

After a productive first half, Birdsong, who recorded season-highs with 11 points and seven rebounds, continued to provide the team with strong play on both sides of the court.

Both teams displayed their physicality. With 12 minutes left to play, sophomore forward Mike Morrison, who scored 10 points, went up to grab a rebound, but during the process, he got tangled up with the Blue Hens’ forward Hakim McCullar.

Both players received technical fouls and had to be restrained by their teammates.

The Blue Hens closed within 12 points with four minutes left. Junior guard Isaiah Tate sank a 3-pointer to bring the Blue Hens’ momentum to a halt.

Although the team was outscored 49-39 in the second half, junior guard Cam Long led the team with 18 points after being held to five points in the first half.

Even though Mason had success on the road, improving to 4-4 away from the Patriot Center, the team was able to show as much consistency at home.

“The three road games were very important for our confidence level and also to stay in the race in the league,” said Larranaga. “Coming home is very nice because the students are so supportive.”

The Blue Hens were led by Carter with 23 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the field. Carter added eight assists and two steals, but the Blue Hens were unable to receive any backup.

Center Adam Pegg, who came into the game with 3.6 points per game, scored in double-digits for the third time this season, adding 10 points.

Mason improved to 14-7 overall and 9-1 in the conference, while the Blue Hens dropped to 6-15 overall and 2-8 in conference play.