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Rested Colonials set to play host to slumping Dukes |

Rested Colonials set to play host to slumping Dukes

| Saturday, February 19, 2005 12:00 a.m

WASHINGTON — All season long, George Washington has served as the closest thing to a national power that the Atlantic 10 Conference has had to offer.

There are, at present, no A-10 teams appearing in the national rankings, but the Colonials were there after back-to-back wins over nationally ranked Michigan State and Maryland. They fell out following three A-10 losses in a stretch of four games in January.

“Teams, when they lace them up against us, seem to bring their ‘A’ game,” George Washington coach Karl Hobbs said.

The Duquesne Dukes will “lace them up” today in hopes of producing a miraculous outcome at Smith Center against the high-octane Colonials, but it’s unlikely, judging by the Dukes’ abysmal season, that a victory is in the cards.

Duquesne, saddled with a four-game losing streak, is coming off a 68-62 setback to Temple on Wednesday at Palumbo Center in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. Yet, Dukes junior guard Jack Higgins, who led Duquesne with 19 points, thought otherwise.

“I felt we accomplished a lot,” Higgins said. “We cut the lead down to 4 (midway through the second half). There are no excuses. It was a winnable game. We should have won the game hands-down.”

But the Dukes (6-18, 3-8 A-10 West) trailed by 11 points with 23 seconds remaning before cutting the deficit to the single-digit final outcome.

A scheduling quirk has given George Washington (16-5, 8-3 A-10 East) much rest lately. Afer playing eight games in 25 days, the Colonials got a reprieve.

Following an 82-73 victory over Dayton on Jan. 30, George Washington was idle until Feb. 5, when it defeated Temple, 74-58. The Colonials then were off for another week before topping Richmond, 80-63, in their most recent game last Saturday.

It represented a total of just two games during a 13-day span, and perhaps the down time had the Colonials gathering steam.

“The score (against Richmond) wasn’t indicative of really how the game was played,” Hobbs said. “(Richmond point guard Daon) Merritt got banged up … He has been a major problem for us.”

Hobbs has indicated that, for the most part, the Colonials have handled adversity well this season.

“It hasn’t been easy for my team to focus on one team because we haven’t been good enough to think otherwise,” he said. “We’re still trying to learn how to win some games to get into the NCAA Tournament. But our guys are learning to raise their level of play because teams are playing great basketball when they’re playing us.

“We can’t complain about that. We have to step up.”

After opening the season with a 21-point loss to preseason No. 1 Wake Forest, the Colonials reeled off eight consecutive victories to break into the national polls.

A 71-63 loss to West Virginia on Dec. 29 slowed their momentum, but three consecutive victories, including an 81-57 trouncing of Duquesne on Jan. 8 at Palumbo Center, improved their record to 11-2.

George Washington’s lineup is laced with players attracting NBA scouts, among them 6-foot-9, 240-pound junior Pops Mensa-Bonsu, who is third among five double-figure scorers on the team with an average of 13.3 points per game and second in rebouding (6.9 rpg).

Senior guard T.J. Thompson (14.3 ppg) leads the Colonials in scoring. Mike Hall (8.5 rpg), a 6-8, 230-pound junior, is the top rebounder.

“We just need to play up to our ability and things will take care of themselves,” Hobbs said.

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