GW defeats La Salle

By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2010

George Washington did what it needed to do Wednesday night, beating La Salle, 81-72, to win the first game of a three-game homestand at Smith Center. But although the Colonials came away with the victory, the win did not come as easily as the final score indicated.

GW's nine-point margin of victory was its third largest in an Atlantic 10 Conference game this season, and it kept the Colonials (15-11, 5-8) tied for ninth place in the standings with St. Bonaventure (12-14, 5-8). Still, they needed a late push to pull away from the Explorers (11-16, 3-10), a team ravaged by injury that has lost seven in a row and nine of its last 11.

"It was a very tough game for us," GW Coach Karl Hobbs said. "We showed some growth tonight.

"We were down six [late] and we kept our composure."

Once again, GW called on two freshmen to pull out the win, guard Lasan Kromah and forward Dwayne Smith. Kromah scored six points in GW's 14-5 spurt to close out the game, finishing with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting -- the third consecutive game Kromah has scored 20 or more points.

"I think as the year goes on I get more comfortable," Kromah said. "I'm feeling like the team rolls when I'm rolling. I'm just flowing with it."

Though Hobbs was critical of poor passes and bad decisions that led to six turnovers by Kromah, he was effusive in his praise for the gifted freshman.

"I thought he played a magnificent game," Hobbs said. "Every day he's just reminding me more and more of [current NBA player] Richard Hamilton.

"There's no doubt in my mind, he's going to be a player that's going to have an opportunity to be special."

Smith broke out of a two-game slump to score a career-high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He had a powerful dunk and a layup in the final minutes.

"I really thought Dwayne was terrific from the standpoint of he made terrific decisions on when to drive the ball to the basket and when to pull up for the jump shots," Hobbs said.

GW's start set the tone for the first half. Starting center Hermann Opoku picked up two fouls in the first minute, and the Colonials missed their first four shots and had a turnover before Damian Hollis sank a pair of free throws to give GW its first points of the game.

After Hollis made his foul shots, he exited the game. He was the last of the starters remaining on the court. With 16 minutes 52 seconds remaining in the half, Hobbs had sat down his entire starting five and replaced them with three freshmen and two juniors.

But no matter who GW put on the court, the Colonials struggled to find a way to break the game open and put distance between themselves and La Salle. The Explorers seemed to answer every GW basket, even though they had only eight players in uniform -- seven scholarship players and a walk-on who played less than a minute. La Salle is missing three seniors who are out with injuries.

After the score was tied at 67, La Salle inexplicably started settling for long jump shots. The Explorers took their next six shots from behind the arc, missing all of them. Their only points during that nearly four-minute stretch came when Parrish Grant was fouled on his three-point attempt and made one of three free throws.

GW, which had lost four in a row to La Salle, scored more points than it had in a conference game all season.

Colonials note: Freshman guard Bryan Bynes was on the bench wearing a protective boot on his left foot. Bynes sprained his ankle in the Richmond game. It is not known when he will be cleared to play.

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