No. 6 Colonials Extend Winning Streak To 15 Games

Feb. 22, 2006

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WASHINGTON (AP) - George Washington was going to have extend the nation's longest winning streak without center Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Regis Koundjia stepped right in and the sixth-ranked Colonials didn't miss a beat.

With Mensah-Bonsu, the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder, limited to 13 first-half minutes because of a twisted left knee, Koundjia scored 13 points to lead five George Washington players in double figures in a 77-65 victory over La Salle on Wednesday night.

"The guys had to respond because they were going into a situation where they hadn't been before," George Washington coach Karl Hobbs said. "We never told them if Pops was coming back or not coming back."

Maureece Rice and Carl Elliott each had 12 points for the Colonials (23-1, 13-0 Atlantic 10), while Mensah-Bonsu and Danilo Pinnock both added 10.

"I think the fact that Pops wasn't out there was really our rallying point because Pops is such a valuable part of this team mentally, physically and emotionally," Pinnock said.

Omar Williams added seven points and seven rebounds for George Washington.

"I challenged Omar, Mike (Hall) and Regis at halftime and told them: 'You haven't scored yet. You guys have got to step up.' And we responded the way we should at home," Hobbs said. "I was very proud of the way we finished the game."

Hobbs said he had "no intentions" of putting Mensah-Bonsu back in the game. Mensah-Bonsu's injury was being evaluated late Wednesday night.

The Colonials' ranking is their best since Feb. 15, 1955, when they were No. 5, the highest in school history.

"The success of what we do evolves around our ability to share the game," Hobbs said. "That's what separates us. ... We're having a fantastic year and we're enjoying the ride."



Darnell Harris had 19 points for La Salle (17-8, 9-5), which had a seven-game winning streak ended. Steve Smith added 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting and grabbed six rebounds, while Jermaine Thomas had 10 points.

"Whenever Steve Smith steps on the basketball court, he's the focal point," Hobbs said. "Everything starts with him. I think the guards played very well off of him and that allows them to be even better players. The nice part about Steve Smith as a player is that he doesn't force the action. Very rarely does he take bad shots. He lets the game come to him."

Smith said the Colonials "made it extremely tough down the stretch to get the ball. They're big, they're strong, they're athletic and they cover a lot of ground. They made me work a whole lot harder than I would like."

La Salle entered the game with a 7-4 road record but the Explorers have dropped 11 straight at the Smith Center, which was sold out with a crowd of 5,000.

"If we didn't turn it over, we probably would have had a chance to win the game," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "But 19 turnovers to nine is an awfully big discrepancy to overcome."

George Washington, one of only two one-loss teams remaining in Division I, has won five straight over La Salle. Top-ranked Duke (26-1) is the other team with only one loss.

Rice followed Williams' tip-in and layup with a 3-pointer that gave George Washington a 66-56 lead with 5:43 left.

"We moved the ball and got the shots we wanted," Hobbs said. "In the first half, we didn't move the ball as well and that was the difference."

Koundjia had a three-point play and a dunk that gave the Colonials a 59-54 lead with 8:06 remaining.

"He was outstanding tonight," Hobbs said of Koundjia. "He brought a great deal of energy. He's a talented player and he's playing better every game."

Mike St. John's 3-pointer from the corner gave La Salle its last lead, 48-46 with 12:30 remaining.

Rice's 3-pointer capped a 10-2 run that gave George Washington a 41-40 lead with 15:53 left. Five Colonials scored during the spurt.

Paul Johnson opened the second half with a 3-pointer from the corner that gave La Salle a 38-31 lead.

La Salle led 2-0 before the opening tip. Mensah-Bonsu drew a technical for dunking during warmups and Thomas converted the free throws.

Mensah-Bonsu attacked the basket early and often but did not score until the 14:22 mark when his dunk pulled the Colonials within 8-6. His layup produced GW's first lead, 12-10, midway through the half.

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