- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — No. 16 George Washington fortified its place as the team to beat in the Atlantic 10 with an 83-69 dismantling of Charlotte at Halton Arena.

GW (14-1, 4-0 A-10) trailed 4-2 and was struggling to find a rhythm at the 15:51 mark of the first half but responded with a 13-3 run and never trailed again.

Sophomore Maureece Rice came off the bench to spark the Colonials with 21 points in 28 minutes. And each time Charlotte (11-7, 4-2) threatened GW’s lead, Rice responded.

In a 39-second span in the second half, he had a three-point play, an assist on an alley-oop to Omar Williams and a steal from Charlotte point guard Mitchell Baldwin — all after Charlotte had cut the Colonials lead to nine with less than seven minutes left.

“It feels great,” Rice said. “I know my role is to come off the bench and bring defense, which leads to offense, and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”

Meanwhile, a pesky George Washington defense relegated preseason All-A-10 forward Curtis Withers to nine points on 2-for-9 shooting. Withers didn’t score his first field goal until the 7:15 mark in the first half and went 4-for-10 from the free throw line.

“I thought our defense was pretty consistent,” Hobbs said. “We wanted to keep changing our defenses going between our zones and switching back to man to keep them off balance and keep Withers from getting comfortable.”

Withers never found his stride, but he did grab 15 rebounds.

“Their free throw defense against him was excellent,” Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz deadpanned. “He went to the line 10 times in the first half and only hit four. He needed to hit seven or eight. But they did a nice job and were very physical with him cutting across the lane.”

The physical play of Pops Mensah-Bonsu was a key. After picking up his second foul with 16:26 left in the first half, the senior forward settled down and provided the interior presence to counter Withers.

“I thought this was one of Pops’s better games of the year.” Hobbs said. “I thought he was focused and played really hard and aggressive, even when he had four fouls. He could have been even more productive if he didn’t get the early fouls.”

Mensah-Bonsu finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

“I knew coming in it was going to be a physical game,” he said. “I was just hoping the refs would let us play. It was very physical out there. It’s tough playing down there with Withers, [Chris] Nance, and [Antwon] Coleman.”

That physical play forced Charlotte into woeful 36 percent shooting. The Colonials hit 54 percent of their shots, led by Rice, who was 6-for-8 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free throw line.

Danilo Pinnock added 13 points for the Colonials but struggled from the field, shooting 3-for-10.

GW will be looking for its seventh straight win at Duquesne on Wednesday.

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