- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 19, 2006

GREENSBORO, N.C. — There would not be another effective dramatic rally. There would be no sequel to the miraculous comeback two days earlier.

Instead, George Washington ended its impressive season with a 74-61 loss to Duke in the NCAA tournament before a Duke-partisan crowd of 23,000 at Greensboro Coliseum. The Colonials never got into rhythm and exited in the second round of the Atlanta region.

“We were undisciplined and didn’t have enough patience,” GW coach Karl Hobbs said. “It was more [Duke’s defense] in the first half. But we just didn’t execute, particularly in the second half.”

The Colonials couldn’t rally like they did Thursday, when they rallied from 18 behind in the second half to beat UNC Wilmington in overtime. The Blue Devils handled GW’s full-court defensive pressure and often turned breaking the press into easy baskets.

The Colonials struggled to get their offense moving. Duke’s All-American center Shelden Williams was a force on both ends of the floor, finishing with 17 points, 14 rebounds and, perhaps most importantly, seven blocked shots.

In response, GW shot 27 percent in the decisive first half while falling behind by 16 and never came closer than nine after the break. The Colonials played most of the game short-handed without Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who played only 13 minutes — five in the second half — while feeling the effects of playing in his second game after having knee surgery.

“It is just kind of tough to have my career end this way,” said Mensah-Bonsu, a senior who had four points and two rebounds. “I wanted to go out the right way.”

Hobbs said he held him out because he was concerned about his future in professional basketball.

“I didn’t want to jeopardize that,” the coach said.

It likely would not have made too much difference the way the game was going. Duke was able to push out GW’s offense and the Colonials couldn’t take advantage when they had open looks and layups. GW’s starting backcourt went 6-for-26 with Carl Elliott shooting 2-for-11 and Danilo Pinnock going 4-for-15.

The Blue Devils (32-3) move on to the Sweet 16 where they will meet LSU in the Atlanta Region. The Colonials (27-3) closed a historic season in which they set a school record for wins, posted a perfect 16-0 record in the Atlantic 10 regular season and earned the program’s first NCAA tournament win in 12 seasons.

“We have nothing to be disappointed about,” said Pinnock, whose team also went on a school-record 18-game win streak. “We put Foggy Bottom on the map.”

Duke led from the outset once All-American J.J. Redick (20 points) scored the first points of the game on a 3-pointer. The Colonials stayed close largely thanks to Mike Hall (13 points), but poor shooting did not allow them to take advantage of their 14 offensive rebounds in the first half.

Elliott’s post-up basket cut the deficit to 17-16 with 11:16 in the half before the Blue Devils took control with a 19-4 run started by Lee Melchionni’s 3-pointer. Omar Williams (14 points, 15 rebounds) cut the lead to 27-20 on a tip-in before Duke scored nine straight.

Shelden Williams had the next five points, including getting his own rebound and powering it in while drawing a foul on Hall to make it 32-20. The 6-foot-9, 250-pounder pumped both fists in air while letting out a primal scream. Williams was just as dominant on defense.

“His presence changed shots,” Pinnock said. “We would go up and he would give us a little contact. He changed just about everything in the game. Every shot we took, he pretty much changed. If he didn’t block it, he changed it.”

The other Duke big man, freshman Josh McRoberts, was effective on limiting GW to one shot per possession, particularly after halftime, and finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. McRoberts closed the big run by making it 36-20 after making two free throws following a foul on Mensah-Bonsu near halfcourt.

“I thought they let them play a little more on defense than they let us play,” Omar Williams said.

The Colonials did mount a second-half rally off their defensive pressure by scoring nine straight to cut Duke’s lead to 51-42 on and steal and dunk by Pinnock. Duke went back up by 10 and Pinnock traveled on the next possession. Redick’s pull-up 3-pointer put the Blue Devils firmly back in charge at 55-42.

“When we got the game manageable and had an opportunity to score in some situations, but we didn’t execute,” Hobbs said. “You have to execute against a team like this.”

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