- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

It might only be December, but George Washington made a statement about March yesterday by stunning 11th-ranked Michigan State in the BB&T; Classic at MCI Center. The Colonials started building their postseason resume as Karl Hobbs recorded likely the biggest win of his career.

GW was better than the Spartans in every facet of their 96-83 victory. Pops Mensah-Bonsu dominated the paint with 23 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots. And fourth-year coach Hobbs recorded his first win over a ranked opponent in 11 tries — an achievement that could prove vital to the Colonials landing an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

“I tried to tell my players in the warmup that all [the Colonials] were talking about was that this was an NCAA game,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “To them, it was. I thought it was important to us.”

Hobbs downplayed the meaning, calling it only a “tremendous win for the program.” GW (4-1) faces No.12 Maryland today for the BB&T; title.

“I am not sure what it says,” said Hobbs, who is trying to return GW to the NCAAs for the first time in six seasons. “We are a program trying to develop some type of consistency in terms of winning. We have some teams in our conference [Atlantic 10] that we are trying to be like. We are talking about teams that have pretty much averaged 20 wins the past three years.”

GW shot a blistering 65.4 percent in the second half — largely because of Mensah-Bonsu’s easy baskets — and routinely beat the Spartans (3-2) downcourt. GW also hit nine of 14 3-pointers (64.3 percent) and shot better from behind the arc than the foul line (60 percent).

GW point guard T.J. Thompson (18 points) sparked a relentless transition attack that began as soon as his team got the ball and often ended with an easy transition basket. The Colonials were a step quicker all afternoon, making 12 steals and forcing 22 turnovers. The Spartans looked baffled and had no answer for Mensah-Bonsu, especially with top inside presence Paul Davis spending most of his time in foul trouble.

“I made it my goal coming into this year to gain a little bit of weight so that playing against those type of teams didn’t affect my style of play,” said Mensah-Bonsu, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound junior who made nine of 13 shots after struggling against physical opponents last season. “I knew coming in today if I was aggressive I would have no problems.”

The Colonials outrebounded the physical Spartans 36-29 and pulled down 15 offensive rebounds. Five GW players reached double figures in scoring, including Carl Elliott (17 points, six rebounds, six assists, four steals), Mike Hall (14 points, six rebounds) and J.R. Pinnock (12 points, seven rebounds, three steals).

GW answered several Michigan State second-half rallies with big baskets to keep the visitors at bay. The Spartans cut a 15-point deficit to 73-66 on a dunk by Davis (seven points in 19 minutes), but GW reasserted control on a runner off the glass by Mensah-Bonsu and a 3-pointer by Thompson to push the margin back to 12.

Michigan State made one final push, trimming GW’s lead to 84-76 with 4:38 left, but the Colonials refused to fade. Omar Williams got fouled on an offensive rebound and made both free throws as GW went on a six-point run to seal the upset.

On Tuesday, Izzo was surprisingly upbeat after his team played well in a previous 91-84 loss at No.10 Duke. But yesterday he questioned his players as well as his coaching.

“The way we handled things mentally as well as physically was embarrassing,” said Izzo, who led the Spartans to the 2000 national title. “It’s ridiculous that a veteran team like ours would play with such little intelligence.”

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