By Steven Goff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The George Washington Colonials were happy to be home last night, three days and 2,500 miles removed from their second-half meltdown at the Wooden Classic.
The Colonials quickly got their bearings and blazed to a 24-point lead before settling for a 72-51 victory over Maryland-Baltimore County in front of 2,563 at Smith Center.
Maureece Rice, a 6-foot-1 junior guard, had 22 points and a career-high 10 rebounds as GW (7-2) entered a 15-day break with its 19th consecutive home victory, fifth longest in the nation. Bishop McNamara graduate Brian Hodges led the Retrievers (4-6) with 17 points.
The Colonials did not have much time to shake off their 74-65 loss to Southern California on Saturday in Anaheim, Calif., in which they surrendered a 20-point lead and collapsed down the stretch. They boarded a red-eye flight back to Washington that evening and arrived at Dulles at 6:15 a.m. Sunday.
In no mood to give his players the day off, Coach Karl Hobbs scheduled an afternoon practice to begin preparing for a UMBC team that most recently had scored a surprise win over La Salle in Philadelphia.
"I wasn't that concerned at all because, hey, we're playing at home," Hobbs said of the travel and loss. "And [GW's players] play hard when they're playing at home."
The Colonials showed no lingering effects, easily dissecting UMBC's zone defense and forcing a collection of early turnovers to spark their fast break. A 17-3 run turned the game into a rout, and the lead never dropped below 14 in the second half.
The back court of Rice and Carl Elliott led the way with dissimilar performances. While Rice made 8 of 16 shots and had eight defensive rebounds, Elliott contributed seven points, seven steals, four rebounds and four assists in 27 foul-filled minutes.
"Some games it's going to be me playing good, some games he's going to play good," said Rice, the team's leading scorer with a 15.7 average. "We both have to look at it like, when we're not playing as good as we can, we have to do other things that are involved in the game. He was getting steals and rebounds, so those were the other things he brought to the team to help us out."
Hobbs also received an influential performance from Clemson transfer Cheyenne Moore, who in just his third game since recovering from a stress fracture in his left tibia, had 10 points in 10 minutes, including a three-pointer and two spectacular reverse layups at the start of a sloppy second half.
"He brought a tremendous amount of energy," Hobbs said. "We have to just nicely try to work him in, but I thought he was fantastic."
With finals approaching, GW will not play again until Dec. 28-29 at the Cable Car Classic in Santa Clara, Calif., where No. 24 Air Force will be its first-round opponent. Until then, Hobbs will be able to reflect on his team's decent start to a rebuilding season and its energetic recovery from the previous West Coast trip.
"When you're 7-2, I think that's a passing grade, last time I checked," he said. "We're a team that is still evolving, we're a team that is still growing. We're not the complete team -- I'm not so sure we will ever be the complete team -- but I like the effort and we're improving."
Colonials Note: Starting forward Regis Koundjia did not return after getting hit in the jaw late in the first half. He had five points and four rebounds. A team spokesman said he had a sprained jaw joint, and X-rays were negative. Koundjia will be reevaluated today.