Posted Wednesday, Jan. 4, 8:09 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA-To beat perennial Atlantic 10 contender Temple in the Liacouras Center, the No. 19/20 GW men’s basketball team needed exactly the opposite of its effort at North Carolina State on Dec. 30.
After losing its first contest of the season and their coveted No. 12 ranking because of a flurry of mental errors, the Colonials used 48 percent shooting to beat the Owls 72-60 in Philadelphia in its A-10 opener early Wednesday evening.
The win provided a grim realization that the in-conference schedule may be a marathon battle, rather than a Sunday stroll.
Senior Pops Mensah-Bonsu said the only way to correct mental errors is through intensive practicing. Following the loss to the Atlantic Coast Conference mainstay Wolfpack, the Colonials turned up the heat in the five days of practice leading up to the Temple contest.
“I wouldn’t say it was unpleasant but I think as a team, cause we’re experienced, we knew we had to pick up our intensity as far as practice was concerned,” Mensah-Bonsu said. “We knew that Coach (Karl) Hobbs was going to come back with a lot more intensity and we had to pick up our defense and make up for all the bad things we did in the N.C, State game.”
A balanced attack was a key in the Colonials’ (9-1, 1-0 A-10) victory. Sophomore Maureece Rice dropped 14 points to lead GW. Seniors Mike Hall and Pops Mensah-Bonsu and junior Danilo (J.R.) Pinnock had 12 points apiece. All of Mensah-Bonsu’s points came in the second half.
Hobbs said getting the 6-foot-9 London native the ball is always his priority, but an ankle injury sustained in a Monday practice hampered Mensah-Bonsu’s play. In the second half, he played more careful basketball and felt more comfortable on the floor.
“We always make it a point to get him the ball,” Hobbs said. “I thought he finished plays more. He settled down a little bit. He tweaked the ankle in practice. He iced it down and I thought he showed a lot of courage tonight.”
A hobbled Mensah-Bonsu corresponded with increased playing time for senior Alex Kireev, who scored five points in 10 minutes.
Hobbs characterized junior Carl Elliott as one of the most underrated point guards in the country and his efficient basketball reinforced that classification. Elliott finished with seven points (on 3-for-8 shooting), seven assists, six rebounds and four steals along with no turnovers.
Temple’s Mardy Collins led all scorers with 19 points, and also had four assists and seven rebounds in 40 minutes. Antywane Robinson had 13 points while Dustin Salisbery had 11 points.
Hobbs said it was difficult to adjust to the exhaustive play of Collins, who moved into 10th place in all-time Temple scorers with 1,549 points.
“Any time a guy gets 19 points you can’t say you adjusted to him,” Hobbs said. “He does a terrific job in controlling the tempo of the game. We tried to run guys at him to get him to pass the ball up. He is always on the control and he never rushes his shots. He very rarely takes a bad shot.”
The Owls shot 34.9 percent from the floor while turning the ball over 11 times. Temple forced 16 GW turnovers, something that Temple head coach John Chaney said was part of his game plan. Temple converted 17 points off turnovers while GW was able to get 10.
“We tried to make them play faster,” Chaney said. “When you drive your car fast, you are going to get in more accidents.”
GW seemed to play sloppy at times but offensively dominated in the paint, outscoring Temple 30-16. On the glass, GW out-rebounded the Owls 42-35 but both squads had 12 second-chance points.
The Colonials turned up its intensity in the second half and opened up leads as big as 49-34 with 13:02 remaining in the contest.
GW returns to action on Jan. 7 in Huntington, W. Va., where the team faces Marshall University in its second-to-last out-of-conference matchup.