Posted Wednesday, Nov. 23, 11:50 p.m. On the day before Thanksgiving, GW fans should thank Kennesaw State. It has been a while since the men’s basketball team has been able to play basketball GW style, and the Owls let them do exactly that.
A little more than a week after the No. 21/22 Colonials (AP/USA Today) survived a scare from Division II team Augusta State, GW shot 55 percent from the floor to obliterate Kennesaw State, 87-42, in front of 2,217 fans at the Smith Center Wednesday.
Coach Karl Hobbs said he was disappointed with his team’s defensive preseason performance against Augusta State, and that is all they worked on since the game.
“Our focus for the game was our defense, particularly after the exhibition game,” Hobbs said. “I think this is the most time we’ve ever spent on defense. We spent very little time on our offense, which is unusual for me.”
GW (1-0) exhibited that the extra defensive work paid of by forcing 26 turnovers.
The Colonials were without the services of senior Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who will sit out the first three games due to unspecified violations regarding his early entrance into the NBA Draft (see Web update “NCAA violation forces Mensah-Bonsu to miss three games”).
The void left by Mensah-Bonsu’s absence did not seem to affect GW against a team that lacked physicality and height. Classmate Mike Hall picked up the slack registering a double-double with a career-high 22 points and 12 rebounds. Junior Carl Elliott scored 14 points and dished out five assists. Classmate Danilo (J.R.) Pinnock had 10 points, all in the second half. Pinnock also had a game-high six steals.
Sophomore Maureece Rice registered a career-high 13 points and tied his career-high steals tally with four.
Freshman Montrell McDonald had nine points in his first collegiate game while classmate Rob Diggs had four. McDonald struggled from the line, connecting on 1-of-6. Noel Wilmore got in the game but did not score.
Hobbs said he expects Diggs and McDonald to factor into the Colonials’ game plan.
“They were important tonight,” Hobbs said. “When you look down our bench without Pops, they are very important with those games coming up because they’re going to have to have an impact when they come into the ball game.”
Hall said that coming off a close call to a Division II team, the Colonials knew that they would need to pick up the tempo to compete during the regular season.
“It wasn’t even close,” Hall said of Wednesday night’s intensity compared to last game’s. “We held ourselves accountable for our performance in the exhibition game, and decided not to let that happen again if we want to have a special season. For myself, I can’t display the same lack of enthusiasm and leadership as in the first game if I want to have a special final season. I don’t think that’s going to happen again this year.”
Ronnell Wooten was the only Owl (1-3) in double figures with 10 points. Golden Ingle, coach Tony Ingle’s son, had seven points on 3-of-12 shooting.
Hobbs said there were still things that disturbed him in the 45-point blowout.
“I think we missed too many layups, particularly in the first half, and we could have finished some plays,” Hobbs said. “We were in a little bit in a hurry on some passes, particularly in the first half when we had some turnovers.”
The Owls, who never led, did not pose much of a threat to GW. Coming into the second half down 39-19, Kennesaw State allowed the Colonials to retain control throughout the contest. Ingle’s three-pointer a minute into the second half brought the lead to 41-24, the closest the Owls came all half. The Colonials went on a 13-1 run, stretching nearly four minutes, to open up an 81-33 lead.
In the first half, the Owls did not get off to a good start. After tying the game 4-4 only two minutes into the contest, the Colonials went on a 12-4 run to bring the score to 16-8.
GW never let the lead dip below eight after leading 25-17 with 8:33 remaining. The Colonials closed out the half on a 14-5 run.
Aside from Mensah-Bonsu, senior Dokun Akingbade was the only other active player to not suit for the game. Hobbs said he is still mulling a decision to redshirt the senior.
“I’m getting close,” Hobbs said. “I’m letting a couple of games play themselves out because I want to make sure I take my time and do what’s best for the program and for him. I hope to make a decision soon.”
The Colonials return to action on Saturday at 2 p.m. when they face Norfolk State at the Smith Center.