In the GW men’s basketball team’s 82-74 victory over Rhode Island Saturday, sophomore forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu had one of his best all-around games as a Colonial, setting new career highs with 25 points and 12 rebounds. But as usual, it was not the numbers but rather his acrobatic dunks that stood out.
Mensah-Bonsu’s reverse alley-oop slam five minutes into the game brought nearly all of the 4,258 fans at the Smith Center to their feet. Although his excessive emotions earned him a technical foul after the dunk, GW players were impressed – and so was ESPN, as the play was shown on Sports Center’s Top 10 plays Saturday night.
“I’m not going to lie,” said freshman guard J.R. Pinnock, who scored 18 points in the win. “Out on the break, I’ll stop running if I see (Pops) running because I know exactly what’s going to happen. I want to see it just like everybody else.”
The biggest Smith Center crowd since 2001 watched the Colonials notch their 13th victory to remain a perfect 10-0 at home this season. With six regular season games left, GW (13-8, 7-3 Atlantic 10) has already exceeded its win total from each of head coach Karl Hobbs’ first two seasons and remains in second place behind Dayton in the A-10 West.
Hobbs praised Mensah-Bonsu’s work on the glass in addition to the offense he provided. The forward spent most of the day out-leaping and out-hustling any defenders URI (14-10, 3-6 A-10) threw at him.
“Pops is starting to be more active under that backboard,” Hobbs said. “I thought he carried us today, because we couldn’t hit a three-point shot.”
The Colonials went 1-for-10 from beyond the arc, an unlikely number for a team that averages seven three-pointers per game. But the lack of outside shooting was not a factor, as GW dominated inside, outscoring the Rams 54-36 in the paint.
Mensah-Bonsu said that getting out-muscled in earlier losses to Gonzaga University and the University of Texas has taught him that he needs to make his presence felt early in games. On Saturday, 10 of his 12 rebounds came in the first half.
“Those games taught me how to play with more physical players,” he said. “Sometimes I’m not as active as I was today. I think I need to establish myself early and play actively from the start.”
Leading 26-21 with 7:43 left in the first half, GW went on an 18-10 run to build a 44-31 halftime lead. The Colonials came out of the break and outscored URI 20-11 in the first eight minutes of the second to extend the lead to 64-42. From that point on, URI never came closer than 12.
Despite two straight double-digit home wins this week, Hobbs said the Colonials still need to mature as a basketball team and learn how to play with a sense of urgency on the road. GW has won only two road games this year, with four more remaining.
“When the guys get on the bus when we go away they should be a bit more scared and not act like they’re going to the Museum of Science,” Hobbs said. “We’ve still got a lot of kid in us.”
The Colonials will play at Fordham Wednesday at 7 p.m.