- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

OLEAN, N.Y. — George Washington appeared vulnerable last night.

Midway through the first half, it blew an eight-point lead. And more than a minute into the second half, it found itself trailing lightweight St. Bonaventure.

The game stayed that way most of the second half, until GW hit four 3-pointers in three minutes to rally past St. Bonaventure 89-78, avoiding a potentially devastating loss before 4,801 raucous fans at Reilly Center.

The win extended the nation’s longest winning streak (17 games) and gave George Washington (25-1, 15-0 Atlantic 10) its highest single-season win mark, eclipsing the record achieved twice (1954-55 and 1997-98).

“We were very, very fortunate to win the game,” said GW coach Karl Hobbs, who warned his team not to take the Bonnies (8-18, 2-13) lightly. “We made some tough 3s down the stretch, and we were able to get one or two key turnovers, and I thought that was the only difference in the game.”

On the day after Pops Mensah-Bonsu underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a slight tear in the meniscus of his left knee, putting him out of commission at least through the A-10 tournament, the Colonials desperately needed their dynamic big man.

“We really missed him tonight, particularly just trying to establish an inside game, to establish a tone,” Hobbs said. “We really weren’t able to do that.”

St. Bonaventure’s big men, average at best, had uncharacteristic success against the Colonials. After being nailed to the bench recently, senior Patrick Lottin scored 10 points, his first double-figure outing in almost three months, and grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds. Michael Lee led St. Bonaventure with 18 points.

Hobbs said he’s confident Mensah-Bonsu will return this season — hopefully in time for the NCAA tournament.

“I’m optimistic,” he said. “I really am. … I know he was in good spirits two days ago.”

But Hobbs said he would not jeopardize Mensah-Bonsu’s future by rushing him back.

“I want to be very, very cautious that he doesn’t come back too early,” he said. “If it’s a decision where it looks like he’s coming back a little too early and I think it may jeopardize his long-term ability to play in the NBA, then he won’t come back.”

Omar Williams led GW with 18 points, while Maureece Rice added 16. Danilo Pinnock scored 15 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, and Mike Hall also scored 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Rice’s 3-pointer with 7:14 left got GW within 65-64 and started a 13-0 run. Pinnock’s 3-pointer 50 seconds later put the Colonials ahead for good. Those 3-pointers bookended two baskets to help GW ice the game and avert a crippling defeat.

With GW already getting criticized for its weak schedule, the ramifications of a loss to St. Bonaventure crossed Pinnock’s mind.

“I’m scared what any loss can do to our season,” he said. “Right now we’re not getting too much love from people.”

Said Carl Elliott, who finished with nine points: “A loss today definitely would’ve knocked us off track a little bit.”

GW scored the game’s first seven points and led by as many as eight points five minutes in. But St. Bonaventure rallied, tying the game for the first time at 21-21 almost halfway through.

The Colonials went on an 11-2 run after St. Bonaventure tied the game at 23-23 with 7:15 left in the first half. But the Bonnies chipped away, and GW led only 40-37 at the half, thanks in part to a technical foul called on Hobbs as he left the court for intermission. Apparently upset with a non-foul call in the waning seconds of the half, Hobbs had to be restrained several times by players and coaches. St. Bonaventure’s Tyler Relph came back on the court with both teams in the locker room and hit two free throws.

Relph’s 3-pointer just 10 seconds into the second half tied the game at 40-40, and Ahmad Smith’s three-point play a minute later gave St. Bonaventure its first lead.

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