George Washington freshman forward Montrell McDonald and junior guard Carl Elliott grabbed a rebound at the same time late in the team's 80-69 victory over Norfolk State before 2,292 yesterday at Smith Center. After about a second, Elliott deferred to the freshman, and McDonald brought the ball up the court.
Rather quickly, McDonald is earning the respect of his teammates on the 21st-ranked Colonials (2-0). After an unusual five-point possession helped Norfolk State close to 72-64 with 3 minutes 18 seconds remaining, McDonald took over. He had a steal and a dunk to give the Colonials a 74-64 lead with 2:49 left; had a no-look pass that senior Danilo Pinnock converted into a dunk for a 76-64 lead with 2:30 to play (McDonald was given an assist).
Senior Karandick Ogunride had a three-point play as the Spartans closed to 76-67. On the next possession, McDonald was fouled and made two free throws for a 78-67 lead that was not threatened.
Pinnock had a team-high 19 points and senior forward Mike Hall added 18. McDonald, who is 6 feet 7, had 12 points and three steals, and his late contributions did not escape Coach Karl Hobbs's attention. Nor anyone else's.
A 45-second highlight montage from yesterday's game that aired as fans left Smith Center featured at least a half-dozen clips of McDonald. "When Montrell stole the ball [with three minutes left], that put the game away a little bit," said Hobbs. "He's athletic, and that allows him to be more effective. He handles the ball well, he does a tremendous job of defense and he takes shots he can make."
Norfolk State (0-4) was coming off losses to Wisconsin and Eastern Kentucky in a tournament in the Virgin Islands last weekend; both teams made the NCAA tournament last season.
The Spartans have an unusual roster. They received contributions yesterday from two players who did not play high school basketball. A third, senior guard Keith Young (eight points), did not play after his sophomore year at Parkdale.
They were close to an upset because sophomore guard Tony Murphy scored 25 points, and they outrebounded the Colonials, 37-31.
Norfolk State was undone by poor shooting and ball-handling: The Spartans missed eight layups or dunks and had 23 turnovers.
George Washington starting forward and all-American candidate Pops Mensah-Bonsu missed his second game of a three-game suspension for violating NCAA rules regarding tryouts prior to the NBA draft last spring.
In his absence, the team is getting contributions from several players. Hall has made 17 of 21 field goal attempts (81 percent); McDonald has four dunks among his eight field goals; and the Colonials have forced 49 turnovers.
* LA SALLE 75, AMERICAN 63: Steven Smith scored 19 of his 31 points in the second half to lead the host Explorers in a nonconference matchup.
Smith made 12 of 23 shots from the field and added 13 rebounds while Jermaine Thomas scored 14 for La Salle (2-0). Paul Johnson (Gonzaga) had 10 points.
Brayden Billbe and Garrison Carr had 13 points each and Arvydas Eitutavicius contributed 10 for the Eagles (0-3).
* PORTLAND STATE 81, HOWARD 53: Scott Morrison scored the first 14 points of a 30-0 first-half run and finished with 16, leading the Vikings (2-3) at the Cyclone Challenge in Ames, Iowa.
The Vikings' big run erased an 8-4 deficit as Howard (0-3) went 11:46 without scoring and missed 15 straight shots.
Will Gant had 12 points and Darek Mitchell added 11 for the Bison.
Portland State took control by getting the ball inside to the 6-11 Morrison, who is four inches taller than any Howard starter.
* GEORGE MASON 72, MANHATTAN 66: Jai Lewis scored 17 points and the Patriots shot 60 percent from the field in the second half to win in New York.
Lamar Butler scored 16 points and Will Thomas added 15 for George Mason (2-2).
Manhattan led 17-8 midway through the first half before the Patriots went on a 15-5 run and took a 30-28 lead at the break.