George Washington's overtime win icing on the cake

Originally Published: March 17, 2006
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Three minutes. That's all it took. In three minutes, George Washington cut an 18-point lead down to three points.

So, with eight minutes left in the game -- and possibly in the Colonials' magical season -- GW did what it does best: pressure, trap, finish and make 3s.

"When you're in the midst of playing that hard, you don't realize how quick you're scoring points," said GW's animated head coach Karl Hobbs, who works the sideline as though he's part of the trap. "I didn't realize how quick we were scoring points. We have moments when we go on tremendous runs. We needed one and we did."

You have to understand, GW was on the verge of getting blown out by UNC Wilmington. Although Hobbs doesn't believe that the Colonials' season could be judged by a first-round exit, the reality is his players didn't want that to be the epitaph on their undefeated A-10, two-loss season.

"I didn't want to go out in my last collegiate game getting blown out," GW senior Mike Hall said. "We had to do whatever we could to come out on top. That was amazing. I looked up and we were down three."

GW ultimately took a one-point lead and then traded it back and forth before Carl Elliott's free throws with 11 seconds left tied the game at 79 and sent it into overtime after T.J. Carter of UNCW missed a jumper that could have won the game.

GW won in overtime, 88-85, to advance to the second round after losing in the first round last year.

"That run was kind of demoralizing," UNCW sophomore Vladimir Kuljanin said. "We didn't feel helpless, but we were wishing to just get that stop and get the ball."

During the run that cut the deficit from 18 to three, the Colonials had three steals, a pair of 3s and forced another turnover.

But how does GW just flick a switch and suddenly become the aggressor?

"We just say that we've got to do something to turn this game around, we have to change the pace of the game," Hobbs said. "We knew they were struggling with our pressure, particularly when we would trap them. I told [the team] that if we don't step up our traps, we lose."

George Washington had a right to complain about being seeded eighth after losing only two games. But to Hobbs' credit, he didn't harp on it one bit. GW athletic director Jack Kvancz, a former member of the selection committee, said he was peeved for hours about the Colonials' seed.

But a lot of that had to do with the unknown of Pops Mensah-Bonsu's knee injury. He missed the last four games after injuring his knee against LaSalle on Feb. 22. He had surgery to correct the damaged left knee cartilage. Thursday night, he played 27 minutes and scored 10 points, grabbed three boards and had a block.

"I've got to tip my hat to Dr. James Andrews [famed orthopedic surgeon in Alabama] because think about it, 16 or 17 days ago, I got an operation and now I'm playing major college basketball," Mensah-Bonsu said. "I'm just happy I'm able to be back and glad to be a part of something special."

Mensah-Bonsu said he didn't feel his rehab was complete until he could jump for a rebound. By that, he means standing still, using the natural leaping ability that has made him a cult figure in college hoops. It was only three or four days after he got off crutches that he was able to do that. He's not all the way back, but he's a contributor again and will be as the Colonials prepare to play No. 1 Duke Saturday.

"If we face Duke Saturday, that will be the most exciting day in our lives," Elliott said prior to Duke's win over Southern. "We'll go in with confidence."

And, really, not much more to prove now that the Colonials won a game in the Dance.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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