- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2006

For the first time this season, George Washington has had to work on rebounding — from a loss.

The Colonials visited N.C. State last week with a chance to legitimize their national ranking and possibly gain a spot in the top 10. Instead, GW was blown out by 21 points.

As a result, GW plummeted from No. 12 to No. 20 after shooting 20.7 percent (6-for-29) in the first half and 30.5 percent overall. Its lackadaisical defense, meanwhile, allowed N.C. State to shoot 45.9 percent. In their only game this season against a 2005 NCAA tournament team, the Colonials were a no-show.

“It had nothing to do with our shooting,” coach Karl Hobbs said. “It had something to do with our mind-set and our focus.”

Instead of heading into Atlantic 10 play on the road tonight against Temple with an undefeated record and momentum, the 8-1 Colonials must try to put a demoralizing defeat behind them. The loss to a ranked ACC team on the road was no surprise, but the manner of it was alarming.

“It was definitely a wake-up,” Colonials guard Carl Elliott said. “We are still in the Top 25, but [beating N.C. State] would have showed a lot of people we are about business. It would have been a great opportunity for us to get a spot … in the NCAA tournament.”

GW still could earn an at-large spot but probably would need to repeat as A-10 tournament champion or win 23 or 24 games because of its weak nonconference schedule. The Colonials have no more ranked opponents, and the A-10 has numerous RPI-poor teams, including Duquesne, Fordham and St. Bonaventure.

The Colonials’ defense of their A-10 title begins against a team with the conference’s highest RPI. Temple ranks 31st in the RPI (GW is 87) despite its 6-4 record because of wins over major conference programs like South Carolina, Alabama and Miami.

“Having Temple next is good because we can’t dwell on that last loss,” GW forward Omar Williams said. “We have to move forward. It’s an especially big game, particularly coming off N.C. State. We don’t want to start a losing streak.”

The Colonials will face a team similar to N.C. State that plays deliberately on offense and uses zone defenses. The Owls are not as talented as the Wolfpack, but coach John Chaney’s signature matchup zone has neutralized up-tempo offenses like GW’s.

Temple has held opponents to 56.3 points, while GW leads the A-10 by averaging 81.4. Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who missed 10 of 13 shots against N.C. State, could be the key. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound center sprained his left ankle in practice Monday but is expected to play.

“We attack Temple by attacking the zone, finding open guys in the zone and not settling for long jump shots,” Elliott said. “We want to make them speed up. They are a slow team.”

The Colonials failed their first test against a painstaking team on the road. Now they will be in another hostile environment trying to get their promising season back on track.

“We haven’t become a bad basketball team because of one game,” said Hobbs, who was in a testy mood after practice earlier this week. “It’s not anything to start panicking about or anything to be concerned about. We did some uncharacteristic things in that basketball game that we hadn’t done all year. Now we have to get back to what we were doing before.”

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