- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — It wasn’t pretty, but George Washington won a conference opener that could have major March implications.

The 20th-ranked Colonials eventually solved Temple’s matchup zone by finding Pops Mensah-Bonsu inside in the second half and making their outside shots. The result was a 72-60 victory before a sparse crowd of 3,646 at Liacouras Center, perhaps because of the 6 p.m. start time.

GW shook off its miserable performance in its previous outing — a 79-58 loss at N.C. State — with patient offense, pressure defense and the help of the offensively challenged Owls.

“That was the same game plan going into N.C. State,” said GW forward Mike Hall, who had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. “We just didn’t execute it then.”

The Colonials (9-1, 1-0 Atlantic 10) must compile an impressive conference record to have a shot at an NCAA tournament at-large bid because of their weak nonconference schedule. With few marquee opponents remaining, the road win against Temple (6-5, 0-1) could provide a boost.

“We have a lot of obstacles ahead of us in the A-10 schedule,” Hall said. “We started off on the right foot.”

Mensah-Bonsu, who was limited with a sprained left ankle, did not attempt a shot while playing only nine minutes in the first half. However, the 6-foot-9 center was a focus in the second half, scoring 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting. And GW point guard Carl Elliott controlled the tempo while scoring seven points, dishing seven assists and grabbing six rebounds.

Maureece Rice gave GW a boost off the bench, scoring 14 points. Temple All-America candidate Mardy Collins finished with a game-high 19 points but made only two field goals in the second half.

Both teams started slowly, combining to miss the first 15 3-point attempts. Temple shot 34.5 percent overall and missed its first 11 3-point tries.

“I got apples,” Owls Hall of Fame coach John Chaney said of the shooting. “I got oranges. I got lemons more than anything.”

The Colonials’ 15-point second-half lead dwindled to 49-44 after a 3-pointer by Antywane Robinson with 9:21 left.

But Mensah-Bonsu started an 11-2 run by making one of two free throws. Danilo Pinnock, who scored 12 points, converted a three-point play after scoring in transition to make it 53-44. After Temple’s Wayne Marshall hit two free throws, GW scored seven straight. Mensah-Bonsu scored the next four, including a layup off a no-look pass from Hall to make it 57-46. Hall closed the stretch with a 3-pointer from the right wing.

“We really wanted to control the tempo and play at a fast pace,” GW coach Karl Hobbs said. “And that’s hard considering Temple’s matchup zone.”

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