- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 7, 2003

Less than a week after he was stifled late in George Washington’s first loss of the year, freshman guard Carl Elliott capitalized on a second chance.

Elliott converted a three-point play in the final minute and Pops Mensah-Bonsu scored a season-high 23 points as the Colonials defeated West Virginia 70-64 yesterday in the first round of the BB&T; Classic at MCI Center.

GW (5-1) advanced to the championship game for the first time since 2000 and will face Gonzaga today.

With the Colonials nursing a 64-62 lead, Elliott drove the middle, made a shot and drew a foul to help clinch the victory for GW. The play came three days after Elliott failed to convert scoring opportunities in the final minutes of an 80-77 loss at Appalachian State.

“I wanted to get him back in that situation,” GW coach Karl Hobbs said. “We felt that would give him confidence and that he also had the ability.”

The Colonials predictably had a 44-32 rebounding advantage against the perimeter-based Mountaineers (2-2), but second chances proved crucial. GW had 23 offensive rebounds, leading to 23 second-chance points.

Mensah-Bonsu was a large part of it. The 6-foot-9 forward used his athletic ability and good positioning throughout, routinely outjumping the Mountaineers and turning missed GW shots into easy tip-ins. The sophomore posted a career-best 11 rebounds in a season-high 33 minutes.

“There’s very little you can do when a guy can jump like Pops does,” West Virginia coach John Beilein said.

West Virginia trailed by 18 in the first half but whittled the deficit to 12 by halftime. Led by center Kevin Pittsnogle (16 points), who hit two 3-pointers during a 14-2 spurt after the break, the Mountaineers pulled even less than five minutes into the second half.

West Virginia took a brief lead at 45-43, but Mensah-Bonsu’s putback at 6:02 gave the Colonials the lead for good and the London native’s free throw with 3:28 left extended the advantage to five. The Mountaineers closed the gap to two with 48.9 seconds left on Johannes Herber’s two free throws before Elliott’s winning drive.

West Virginia’s Drew Schifino was held in check for much of the second half. The junior forward, who came in averaging a team-high 21.7 points, was frequently harassed on the outside and forced to drive the lane. He finished with 16 points on 3-for-12 shooting but was limited to two free throws after the break.

GW grabbed an early lead, then used a 13-0 run midway through the first half to open a 29-11 lead. The Mountaineers responded with a 12-0 spurt fueled by Schifino’s eight points.

The Mountaineers will face Maryland in today’s consolation game, and Beilein was excited to play a ranked team even without a day’s rest.

“I would much rather be playing [Maryland or Gonzaga] in the consolation game than playing Cupcake U. tomorrow,” said Beilein, whose team committed 19 turnovers in the loss. “We might get it handed to us, but we’re in this for the long run.”

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