Men’s basketball maintains undefeated start

Posted Sunday, Nov. 30, 12:10 p.m.

For the tenth year in a row, the Colonials captured the annual Red Auerbach Colonial Classic at the Smith Center with wins over Appalachian State University and the College of William and Mary this weekend.

GW improved to 4-0 on the year and 20-0 in the classic’s history after defeating William and Mary 73-57 in the tournament final Saturday night. The Colonials were well-balanced on offense, as four players finished in double figures.

Saturday’s game was a clear sign that a deep roster is helping GW this year. The Colonials’ bench outscored the Tribe’s bench 49-13 and not one GW player logged more than 28 minutes.

Young players had key roles in the win.

Freshman guard Ricky Lucas scored seven of his 11 points during a key 17-2 run in the second half that gave the Colonials a 51-39 lead with 13 minutes left in the game.

Fellow freshman J.R. Pinnock scored 15 points and tournament Most Valuable Player Mike Hall had 13 points and 13 rebounds, notching his fifth career double-double before halftime. Hall helped the Colonials build a 10-point lead at the break with a variety of inside hoops.

William and Mary actually built an early 13-2 lead on the shooting of Adam Hess, who scored 11 of the Tribe’s first 15 points. But the Colonials turned up their perimeter defense and Hess managed just five more points the rest of the game.

In the first game of the classic, Hall had another strong game for the Colonials, scoring 18 points in a 76-62 victory over Appalachian State. He sunk two key free throws to extend the GW lead to eight points with less than three minutes to play and seal the game for the Colonials. Junior point guard T.J. Thompson also had 18 points for and freshman guard Carl Elliot added a season-high nine assists.

GW looks to improve to 5-0 on the season when it meets at Appalachian State for a re-match Wednesday night in Boone, N.C.

Tuesday, Nov. 25
GW 76, Florida International 67

For the first 28 minutes Tuesday night, the GW men’s basketball team showed a crowd of almost 3,500 everything they could become this year, building a 20-point lead over Florida International University in GW’s home opener at the Smith Center. But over the next seven minutes, they reminded fans of everything they still are – young and inexperienced, as that 20-point lead dwindled to just three.

The Colonials were able to hold on, though, as they made key free throws down the stretch to beat the Golden Panthers, 76-67, improving to 2-0 on the season. After the game, the team’s near-collapse was as much a focus as the actual victory, and GW head coach Karl Hobbs attributed his team’s struggles to two factors.

“I think it’s (because it is) early (in the) season and I think it’s a little bit of our youth,” he said. “And probably a little bit of that youth is us being daring when we don’t need to be. We need to have a little bit more poise.”

Junior guard T.J. Thompson, who had 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting to go along with four assists and four steals, said the team needs to keep its composure after taking big leads.

“We got caught up in being up so much and we kind of thought the game was over,” he said. “And us being young and (thinking) the game is over, some people look at it as ‘Showtime,’ so basically we thought we had the game (won) and weren’t focusing on putting in away.”

GW built a 55-35 lead largely by capitalizing on FIU’s frequent turnovers and getting to the free throw line. But after an alley-oop by sophomore Omar Williams and a free throw from Thompson gave the Colonials their 20-point lead with 12 minutes remaining, the game changed quickly.

The Colonials started turning the ball over, four times in the next three minutes to be exact, and FIU’s Carlos Morban made them pay. The six-foot-two junior guard led an 18-4 run over the next five minutes, bringing the Golden Panthers within six. Over that span, Morban scored 12 points, including two three-pointers. He would finish with a game-high 27 points along with five rebounds and seven steals.

After an Omar Williams free throw put GW back up by seven, FIU chipped away as they dominated the glass. First the Golden Panthers grabbed three offensive rebounds on one possession before finally making a lay-up on their fourth try to cut the lead to five. Then, on its next possession, FIU grabbed two offensive rebounds before Taurance Johnson tipped in two of his 19 points to cut GW’s lead to three.

For the game, the Golden Panthers had 40 total rebounds and 19 on the offensive glass, compared with 28 total rebounds for GW, eight of which were offensive. But one of those offensive rebounds for the Colonials proved key.

Still up by just three, 62-59, with five minutes remaining, Thompson missed a baseline jumper. But sophomore Mike Hall came flying in for the tip to put GW up by five, and FIU would get no closer. The Colonials pulled away, making 10 of 14 free-throws in the final minutes.

“We were able to make some free throws down the stretch and Pops (Mensah-Bonsu) had a great night from the line,” Hobbs said. “And we needed every one of those to keep the momentum in our favor.”

Mensah-Bonsu led the Colonials with a team-high 20 points, making 14 of 15 free throws while hitting all three of his field goals. As a team, GW was 25 for 37 from the line, while FIU was 11 for 20.

The Colonials’ freshmen, who were key contributors in the preseason as well as in GW’s opening win at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, were largely absent Tuesday. J.R. Pinnock was 1-for-5 from the field with two points and five turnovers in 18 minutes, while Ricky Lucas and Lafonte Johnson both went scoreless in six minutes apiece.

Freshman guard Carl Elliot scored nine points in 22 minutes but scored just one point in the second half. He did score six of GW’s first eight points, however, as the Colonials jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the game’s first five minutes.

“Thank God we did (start well) because I think that was the difference in the basketball game,” Hobbs said. “But once again, we have to learn how to play with leads.”

GW held a double-digit advantage for much of the first half but only led 35-24 at halftime despite out-shooting FIU, 48 percent to 37 percent. For the game, GW shot 50 percent but only attempted 48 field goals compared with FIU’s 61. The Golden Panthers shot 41 percent for the game.

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