- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2006

RICHMOND — The last time George Washington’s men’s basketball team was on this kind of a roll was 70 years ago.

The seventh-ranked Colonials rode a strong first half to a 64-51 win over Richmond at Robins Center to improve to 22-1 overall and 12-0 in the Atlantic 10. Despite a lackluster performance, GW matched the longest winning streak in program history at 14 — the longest active streak in the nation. The Colonials can break the record of the 1935-36 team with a home win against La Salle on Wednesday.

GW survived against the reeling Spiders — who lost their sixth straight game — despite a nearly six-minute field goal drought in the second half in which Richmond cut a 16-point deficit to seven.

Carl Elliott hit two 3-pointers late as GW pulled away.

GW also clinched a first-round bye — which goes to the top four teams — in the A-10 tournament. The Colonials have a three-game lead in the league over second-place Charlotte.

Richmond (11-14, 4-7) was in the game thanks to the play of Jermaine Bucknor, who had a game-high 23 points and made six of nine 3-pointers. At one point, he had three straight 3-pointers for the Spiders. The second two were part of 9-1 run that got Richmond within 50-43 with six minutes left.

The Spiders had several chances to get closer as GW went through its cold spell. Kevin Steenberge missed a wide-open 3-pointer that would have cut the Colonials’ lead to four. After another GW miss, Richmond missed all three shots on its next possession.

“We didn’t quite shoot well enough,” said Spiders coach Chris Mooney, whose team shot 37.5 percent. “We put ourselves in a position to win the game. If a few more shots fall, maybe we can do that.”

Elliott made a pair of free throws with 3:51 left to reopen the lead to 11 and start a 10-point run. Later, the point guard nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Colonials a 60-43 advantage.

Maureece Rice led the Colonials with 16 points, while Elliott finished with 13. Pops Mensah-Bonsu had 10 points and nine rebounds as GW held a 35-25 rebounding advantage.

“I thought we played very well,” GW coach Karl Hobbs said. “Both teams were trying to force their will and style on each other. Obviously, Carl Elliott hit some big shots.”

The Spiders stayed close by committing only seven turnovers, a stark contrast to their 22 giveaways when GW cruised 80-55 at Smith Center on Feb.5.

GW led 35-22 after a less-than-stimulating first half. Richmond ran its clock-milking, Princeton-style offense without much success. The Colonials enjoyed a 28-6 advantage in points in the paint. Rice, a backup guard, led GW with 10 points on 4-for-4 shooting as its bench outscored Richmond’s 14-0.

Meanwhile, Richmond settled for long- and often-ugly 3-pointers against GW’s 1-3-1 zone. The Spiders took 10 more 3-pointers than two-point field goals in the half. They made four of 16 3-pointers and four of six from inside the arc. Bucknor was the Spiders’ top threat with eight points while making two of three 3-pointers.

The Spiders kept it close early and tied the game at 10-10 on a 3-pointer by Oumar Sylla with 12:38 left. However, Danilo Pinnock gave GW the lead for good after he grabbed an offensive rebound and converted a three-point play as part of his 12-point night. A putback by Mensah-Bonsu pushed the lead to 15-10.

GW closed the half on a 15-5 run. Mensah-Bonsu started it with a dunk off a fastbreak. Regis Koundjia followed with a backcourt steal and layup. The Colonials scored eight straight to make it 34-20 after a turnover turned into a Pinnock dunk in transition.

Coming off shooting efforts of 35 percent and 38 percent in narrow victories over Massachusetts and Saint Joseph’s, GW hit 64 percent of its shots in the first half last night but just 39 percent in the second half.

Is GW offense getting back to the form that saw it average an A-10 high 80.2 points before last night?

“I don’t know,” said Hobbs, whose team made five of 11 3-pointers (45.5 percent). “It is hard to tell because we are winning. I think we sort of make shots when we have to.”

Note — Freshman forward Montrell McDonald, who averages 4.4 points in 13.1 minutes a game, has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. Hobbs would not speak further on the situation.

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