- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 11, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — Carl Elliott missed an open layup and air-balled the front end of a one-and-one. Pops Mensah-Bonsu had to be calmed down by a teammate because he was so frustrated after absorbing countless hard fouls. Yes, No. 8 George Washington was awful in the first half yesterday at Saint Joseph’s.

But the Colonials scored 20 consecutive points to erase a 10-point second-half deficit, pulling out a dramatic 64-62 win before 3,200 at Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse. GW remains perfect in the Atlantic 10 and is off to its best start in school history.

The Colonials (20-1, 10-0 A-10) didn’t take the lead for good until Mensah-Bonsu’s layup off a Omar Williams’ feed with 23 seconds left gave GW a 63-62 advantage. The Hawks had their chances as Abdulai Jalloh missed a potential game-tying jumper in the lane with 10 seconds left and Rob Ferguson’s 3-point attempt rimmed out as time expired.

“I hope we can hurry up and end this game, so we can hurry up and get home,” GW coach Karl Hobbs said of his feelings after the abysmal first half which saw his team trail 33-25 after shooting 25 percent and committing 11 turnovers. “Then I thought about the game and we were doing a lot of things that were uncharacteristic for us. I think the first three shots we took came after two passes and somebody taking a shot. That is not how we set a tone.”

The Colonials starting frontcourt did not have a field goal in the first half, while the starting five missed 17 of 21 attempts. Maureece Rice had three baskets, while the rest of the squad had four.

GW won its 12th straight behind Rice and Mensah-Bonsu, who was pounded consistently by Saint Joseph’s stable of big, physical players. Mensah-Bonsu finished with 21 points and made 11 of 19 free throws while adding nine rebounds. Rice, the explosive sophomore, was GW’s only consistent scorer, closing with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting.

The Colonials won with offensive putbacks and by limiting the Hawks (10-11, 4-6) to one shot. GW outrebounded Saint Joseph’s 41-34, including 15-7 on the offensive end. Mike Hall had a team-high 10 boards (five offensive) even though he struggled offensively for the second straight night, shooting 1-for-8.

GW took charge shortly after halftime, after Saint Joseph’s Dave Mallon scored 13 seconds into second half to stretch the Hawks’ lead to 35-25. The Colonials unleashed a 20-point run in 6:31, pounding the ball inside to Mensah-Bonsu, who had seven points in the stretch.

“It’s tough mentally,” said Mensah-Bonsu, who had no field goals in the first half, but made eight of 12 free throws. “I am getting used it now. It has happened before. I know teams try to play me real physical. That is what the weight room is for.”

Williams scored four straight on two jumpers to cut the lead to 35-30. Hall scored his only field goal off his own offensive rebound to cut it to one. Mensah-Bonsu tied the game by making one of two free throws after getting hammered by 6-foot-9, 220-pound Ahmad Nivins. A Mensah-Bonsu offensive rebound set up Rice’s runner down the lane, which arched high off the glass to give GW its first lead, 37-35 with 15:27 left, since early in the first half.

Pinnock blocked Chet Stachitas’ outside jumper to set up his own fastbreak dunk. Mensah-Bonsu added a three-point play and Williams iced it with a 3-pointer to cap the incredible rally to make it 45-35 with 13:25 left.

“We crumbled,” said Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli, whose team suffered a two-game sweep by the Colonials. “I am very disappointed because of our toughness. We showed it in the first half, but not in the first 12 minutes of the second half. We ran around like little boys.”

The Hawks were 1-for-21 from 3-point range. Jalloh had only four points on 0-for-7 shooting, 0-for-5 from 3-point range.

Nonetheless, the Hawks did rally and used an eight-point run to retake the lead at 60-59 on two free throws from point guard Dwayne Lee, who had 11 points and five assists while playing all 40 minutes, with 1:47 left. Mensah-Bonsu regained the lead for GW on a layup after a feed from Rice.

Mallon (12 points) retook the lead for St. Joe’s one final time after flying in for an offensive rebound for a layin with 36 seconds left before Mensah-Bonsu’s 3-point play gave GW the lead for good. Elliott made one of two free throws the final margin with eight seconds left.

Hobbs was pleased with his team’s setting the wins record, even if he wasn’t with the performance. He has his own way of measuring the Colonials’ success and apparently it wasn’t met.

“I’m not so sure mentally we were prepared at the beginning,” Hobbs said. “And that will be addressed.”

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