Half the GW men’s basketball team had never played in a regular season college game a week and a half ago, but since then the Colonials have managed to tie their longest winning streak in two years. After opening with a loss at No. 14 Connecticut, the Colonials (3-1) won three games in a row with strong performances by key freshmen.
Forwards Pops Mensah-Bonsu (24 points vs. Bucknell) and Mike Hall (17 points at Florida International) started their rookie seasons in an impressive fashion, compensating for surprising early inconsistency from senior guard Chris Monroe. Monroe scored a combined 47 points in two games and shot just 6-for-32 from the floor in GW’s two other games, but his teammates have been able to take the offensive load off his shoulders when necessary.
“We’re a young team, we’re going to make mistakes, but you just try to find ways to win, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” GW head coach Karl Hobbs said. “I’d like for us to be able to run our offense with more fluidity and we have to continue to rebound, particularly going into the BB&T this weekend.”
GW’s next game will likely be its toughest of the season, as the Colonials take on No. 2 Texas in the first round of the BB&T Classic at the MCI Center Saturday at 1 p.m. They will face either Notre Dame or defending National Champion No. 8 Maryland Sunday.
Tuesday, Dec. 3
GW 77, Florida International 63
Led by Chris Monroe’s game-high 23 points and Hall’s 17, GW cruised past Florida International University 77-63 for its first road win of the season.
The Colonials opened up a 12-point lead at halftime and never looked back, shooting nearly 64 percent from the floor in the second half to thwart any rally attempt from FIU (4-1).
“The one area that kept them in the game was their 17 offensive rebounds,” Hobbs said. “But we were able to keep our poise and we did a really good job of making free throws.”
Coming off the bench after being replaced in the starting lineup Saturday by Mensah-Bonsu, freshman center Alexander Kireev had his best game of the season with five points and five rebounds in 19 minutes.
Hobbs said after Saturday’s game that Kireev had been too anxious and that coming off the bench might settle him down. Not only did Kireev show improvement Tuesday, he also showed some feistiness, picking up a technical foul along with FIU’s Eulis Baez after the two exchanged elbows.
Saturday, Nov. 30
GW 80, Bucknell 77
Pops Mensah-Bonsu was told before Saturday’s championship game of the Red Auerbach Colonial Classic that he would get the first start of his collegiate career, but nobody told him he was supposed to play like it.
The 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward started at center and recorded career highs, with 24 points and seven rebounds to lead GW over Bucknell University (2-3) 80-77. With the victory, the Colonials won the tournament for the ninth consecutive year at the Smith Center.
“When I found out I’d have the opportunity to start, I made sure I was going to do whatever I could,” Mensah-Bonsu said. “As soon as they got me the ball and I got off to a good start, I knew I was going to have a good game.”
Freshman Mike Hall had the first double double of his collegiate career with 16 points and 13 rebounds, and sophomore point guard T.J. Thompson added 12 points and 10 assists. Thompson’s 21 total assists Friday and Saturday set a new tournament record.
The Colonials’ offense was balanced with four players scoring in double digits, but Mensah-Bonsu was the catalyst, scoring the team’s first basket in each half. His efforts countered a 34-point, 13-rebound performance by Bucknell senior and tournament Most Valuable Player Boakai Lalugba.
“We really wanted to attack their big guy, because we knew he was going to attack us,” Hobbs said. “But their match-up zone was very good and it really forced us to take a lot of three pointers.”
Friday, Nov. 29
GW 68, Mount St. Mary’s 54
GW advanced to the tournament championship with a convincing 68-54 win over Mount St. Mary’s College Friday night. Monroe bounced back from a 3-for-17 shooting performance Monday at Connecticut to lead GW with 25 points.
Freshman Omar Williams was also solid for the Colonials, notching 11 points and six rebounds despite turning the ball over four times. GW struggled with turnovers, committing 17, but Mount St. Mary’s had 20 of its own.
GW shot 62 percent from the field in the first half but could not put away the Mountaineers, leading only 35-30 at halftime. But much like they would on Saturday, the Colonials clamped down in the final 10 minutes to secure the win.
Monday, Nov. 25
Connecticut 67, GW 55
HARTFORD – Chris Monroe shot just 3-for-17 from the field for 15 points last Monday as GW dropped its regular season opener 55-67 to No. 14 Connecticut in front of 14,863 at the Hartford Civic Center.
GW held the Huskies (4-0) to just 36 percent shooting but shot only 31 percent themselves in the loss. Hall was the only other player to join Monroe in double figures with 12 points, but Hobbs said the game was still a positive experience for his youngsters.
“There was no better way to start their college careers off than to play at Connecticut,” he said. “Anytime you come into Connecticut’s building and hold them to 35 percent shooting and out rebound them by one, that’s difficult to do. I can almost guarantee you there won’t be too many teams that come in here and do that.”
GW kept the game close in the first half, trailing by only four at halftime despite a barrage of UConn three-pointers. But the Colonials shot only 21 percent and had 12 of their 20 turnovers in the second half, effectively taking themselves out of the game.
Monroe also struggled in the second half, failing to convert a single field goal. Connecticut Head Coach Jim Calhoun said he was pleased with his team’s defensive execution against Monroe and the rest of the Colonials.
“I don’t know if they’ll run into better guards all year,” Calhoun said of Robertson and Gordon, who led the Huskies with 21 and 17 points, respectively. “(GW) is going to be much better this year if they give this kind of effort every night.”
–Lauren Silva contributed to this report.
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