If Monday’s 79-74 exhibition win over Court Authority is any indication, the GW men’s basketball team has solved its problem at power forward, as freshmen Pat Ngongba and Antxon Iturbe both turned in solid performances in their college basketball debuts.
Ngongba and Iturbe each scored 12 points, leading five Colonials in double figures, as GW used a 9-3 run in the final two minutes to win the first of two exhibition games.
“A year ago we really didn’t have a lot of production out of the power forward spot, and we had to move Yegor Mescheriakov into it,” head coach Mike Jarvis said. “Now you look at this year, you’ve got Iturbe and Mr. Ngongba. Put them together, and you’ve got a whole lot of things. They’re both very capable offensive and defensive players.”
Ngongba, a redshirt freshman, left a lasting impression in his long-awaited GW debut. Ngongba was a prized recruit a year ago who was declared academically ineligible by the NCAA.
“It was tough last year,” Ngongba said. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”
In addition to his 12 points, Ngongba grabbed six rebounds and had two blocks. But most of all he showed his athleticism, blocking shots and scoring inside. The freshman even showed shooting range by nailing a first-half three-pointer.
Iturbe, a 6-8 native of Vitoria, Spain, collected a double-double with 11 rebounds to go along with his 12 points.
With center Alexander Koul just recovering from an ankle injury and playing reduced minutes, Iturbe and Ngongba both played most of the time at center and power forward in the final 10 minutes.
“I was a little surprised he left me in, I thought he was going to put more experienced guys in,” Iturbe said. “I guess he thought I was doing a good job and, besides, I was shooting free throws too well.”
Jarvis said Koul’s twisted ankle kept him out of practice until five days ago, and that the 7-foot-1 Belarussian was just now working back into shape.
Senior Darin Green was also a bright spot for GW, showing the athleticism he had before knee injuries slowed him last season. Green scored 11 points and made several athletic plays.
“Darin Green is the Darin Green of two years ago, when he was healthy and had pop in his legs,” Jarvis said. “A year ago Darin just never physically got going.”
The game was sloppy at times, with GW committing 22 turnovers. Nevertheless, the Colonials built a double-digit lead at 50-40 with 15 minutes left.
However, Court Authority slowly closed the gap. Vince Wilson’s three-pointer from the top of the key with 2:12 left in the game gave Court Authority its first lead at 69-68. GW then went on its run to finish the game.
Mescheriakov had 10 points and eight rebounds for GW, while Shawnta Rogers added 10 points and six assists. The Colonials will play their second and final exhibition Nov. 10 against the Around the World Basketball team. GW will open the season at the Red Auerbach Classic against Howard University Nov. 14.