Even the long-awaited return of George Washington's charismatic star couldn't dissuade yet another low-profile Smith Center opponent from dreaming of an upset.
Senior forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu played for the first time this season in last night's 75-62 victory over Boston University, and while the 19th-ranked Colonials remain undefeated heading into Monday's meeting with No. 23 Maryland, it was hardly easy. For the second straight game, a visiting small-conference foe was within three points well into the second half before finally succumbing to George Washington's typically helter-skelter style.
The Colonials (4-0) triumphed as they often do, scoring 26 points off turnovers and 18 points on their fast break. But after allowing the undermanned Terriers (0-5) to shoot 56 percent, George Washington Coach Karl Hobbs wasn't interested in discussing his team's offensive exploits.
"I'm not that concerned about our offense because we seem to put up points," he said. "It's our defense that has to improve."
The Terriers were the fourth in a series of overmatched nonconference opponents, and the team that entered Smith Center last night was weaker than could have been imagined when the game was scheduled. Three players missed the game with injuries, and sophomore forward Tony Gaffney was suspended this week for violating team rules.
The Terriers were left with just nine players in uniform, and they entered last night averaging 49 points a game. Still, they managed a terrific start, making their first five shots and jumping to a 12-3 lead before falling behind by 13 at halftime.
Meantime, an announced crowd of 4,009 was kept busy cheering for Mensah-Bonsu, who missed his team's first three games because of violations connected with his NBA explorations last spring. The fans howled when the 6-foot-9 forward went to the scorer's table for the first time. They screamed when he entered the game.
But Mensah-Bonsu had a rather uneven evening. He lost the ball on a failed dunk the first time he touched it. His next scoring chance resulted in a missed layup that left him sprawled underneath the basket. He scored just four points and had three rebounds in 21 minutes.
"As you can see, I was a little bit more excited than I expected and just couldn't really get it going," he said. "I'm glad my teammates were able to pick up my slack."
The Terriers stayed close throughout, shooting 62 percent in the second half and remaining just seven points down with less than four minutes left. Eventually, their 19 turnovers proved fatal against a George Washington team with scoring options that extend far beyond Mensah-Bonsu.
Junior guard Carl Elliott made his first three three-pointers and finished with 13 points. Sophomore guard Maureece Rice, who is making the most of his steadily increasing role, was 3 for 3 from three-point range and finished with a career-high 17 points. Senior forward Mike Hall reached double digits for the fourth straight game, scoring 16 points and adding 10 rebounds.
The Colonials have four wins by double-digit margins, but their first four opponents are a combined 6-16. Monday night's BB&T Classic figures to offer a sterner test; George Washington will face the 5-1 Terps in the last game of an all-area tripleheader.
"We have to play far better than what we've played to this point," Hobbs said. "A 'B' game won't be good enough."
* GEORGE MASON 81, GEORGIA STATE 51: Lamar Butler made five three-pointers and scored 21 points, and Will Thomas added 15 points and nine rebounds to lead the Patriots in Atlanta.
It was the Colonial Athletic Association opener for the Patriots (3-2), who took control with a 10-0 run that broke a 12-12 tie 10 minutes into the game. George Mason shot 63 percent while building a 40-27 lead in the first half. The Panthers fell to 2-2, 1-1.
* PENN 86, NAVY 73: Ibrahim Jaaber scored a career-high 31 points, including 15-for-18 shooting from the free throw line, as the Quakers won at home.
Steve Danley had 14 points and Mark Zoller 12 for Penn (3-1) .
Clif Colbert had 22 points and Carlton Baldwin and Adam Teague added 12 each for the Midshipmen (0-4), who played six freshmen.