This time George Washington finished what it started.
The Colonials built a double-digit lead midway through the first half last night and defeated Maryland-Baltimore County 72-51, extending their winning streak at Smith Center to 19 games.
The victory came three days after Saturday’s debacle against Southern Cal in which the Colonials blew a 20-point second-half lead against the Trojans.
Point guard Maureece Rice finished with a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Colonials. GW entered the game tied for the nation’s fifth-longest homecourt winning streak with Memphis, Brigham Young and Northwestern State.
The Colonials (7-2) have the next 15 days off for final exams before returning to the West Coast for the second time this month to take on Air Force in the Cable Car Classic in Santa Clara, Calif., on Dec. 28.
Rice, who is averaging 15.7 points a game, has emerged as GW’s top threat in the last two games. He scored 17 against USC before his big game last night.
Senior guard Carl Elliott had been GW’s leading scorer all season until Saturday’s game, in which he finished with 11 points. Elliott had just seven points last night but added a career-high seven steals.
“Some games it’s going to be me playing good. Some games [Elliott’s] going to be playing good,” Rice said. “We both have to look at it like when we’re not playing as good as we can we’ve got to do other things that involve us in the game.”
Colonials senior forward Regis Koundjia sustained a sprained jaw joint late in the first half after being struck in the jaw by Retrievers guard Brian Hodges and did not return. X-rays came back negative. In 11 minutes, he scored five points with four rebounds and two assists.
His injury, however, left an opening for Cheyenne Moore.
Moore, a transfer from Clemson, quickly has become the student section’s favorite player. In just his third game since returning from a stress fracture to his left tibia suffered in late October, Moore’s electrifying play had GW’s rabid students chanting his name.
With GW comfortably ahead 45-29 in the second half, Moore took off from the foul lane’s right elbow and converted a spectacular, twisting reverse layup while hanging in the air. In 10 minutes last night, Moore scored a season-high 10 points and gave GW another weapon along the baseline and on the perimeter.
“He came into the game, and he just brought a tremendous amount of energy,” GW coach Karl Hobbs said. “Unfortunately, we have to be careful in terms of the minutes he plays.”
The Retrievers, out of the America East Conference, entered the game coming off an impressive 78-67 win at La Salle on Thursday. But GW’s athleticism and size proved too much for UMBC (4-6).
The Colonials crushed the undermanned Retrievers on the glass, especially early in the game. A sizeable rebounding advantage allowed GW plenty of second and third shots. With 11:13 left in the first half, the Colonials held a 13-2 rebounding advantage, including seven offensive boards.