The 21st-ranked George Washington men's basketball team's 87-42 victory over Kennesaw State (Ga.) in its season opener before 2,217 last night at Smith Center didn't go exactly as planned.
The school announced about 45 minutes before tip-off that all-American candidate Pops Mensah-Bonsu will miss three games after violating NCAA rules regarding the tryout process for the NBA draft last spring.
Mensah-Bonsu has led the team in field goal percentage in each of his first three seasons. He averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds last season.
"At this point I really don't have a comment, except to say when guys work out or put their name in for the NBA draft, there needs to be more clarity," George Washington Coach Karl Hobbs said. "I'll leave it at that."
The school called the violations "inadvertent" and said it worked with the NCAA on the suspension. Mensah-Bonsu also cooperated with the NCAA.
He is allowed to practice with the team, and will miss games against Norfolk State on Saturday and St. Francis (Pa.) on Nov. 30. He is expected to be eligible for a home game against Boston University on Dec. 2.
Mensah-Bonsu started in the preseason game against Division II Augusta State on Nov. 12. He played only eight minutes before rolling his ankle and leaving for good. Despite playing only eight minutes, however, he went 5 for 5 from the field and 4 for 5 from the foul line for 14 points.
He had been medically cleared to play last night.
The Colonials did not miss him much against Kennesaw State (1-3). The Owls are in their first season of Division I basketball after winning the Division II national title in 2004. They entered last night having already played three games -- all in a span of three days, in the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska, last weekend.
Two members of the program have Division I experience. Coach Tony Ingle was the interim coach at Brigham Young in 1996-97; the team went 0-19 under him. His son, point guard Golden Ingle, transferred to Kennesaw State after playing at Western Kentucky.
Golden Ingle entered as the team's leading scorer, at 18.7 points; not surprisingly, the Colonials focused their defensive attention on him. Ingle finished with seven points on 3-for-12 shooting; he also had seven turnovers. The Colonials also held the Owls scoreless for a 6-minute 19-second stretch.
The emphasis on defense stemmed from George Washington's 103-96 preseason victory over Augusta State.
"We held ourselves accountable for that," senior forward Mike Hall said of the defensive lapses against Augusta State. "We vowed that we can't let that happen again if we want to have a special season."
The Colonials ended the first half on a 14-2 run and led 39-19 at halftime. George Washington then opened the second half on a 19-6 run to take a 58-25 lead.
Hall finished with a career-high 22 points and made 10 of 12 field goals. Junior guard Carl Elliott added 14 points and a team-high five assists.
* IONA 80, HOWARD 68: Steve Burtt scored 25 points as the Gaels rallied to beat the Bison in the opening round of the Cyclone Challenge in Ames, Iowa. Louis Ford and Will Gant scored 13 points apiece to lead Howard (0-1). Iona is 1-0.