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31.03.2006 Sports News

A Ghanaian NBA star in the making?


PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Pops Mensah-Bonsu played like a talented big man who has NBA potential is supposed to perform against one of the nation's weakest major-college teams.

The surprise was his George Washington teammates didn't play up to their No. 14 ranking until getting a scare from a Duquesne team that loses by an average of 20 points against conference opponents.

Mensah-Bonsu took advantage of Duquesne's depleted frontcourt to score a career-high 29 points and George Washington shook off a sluggish first 30 minutes to beat the reeling Dukes 94-78 Wednesday night.

"I thought he was fabulous," George Washington coach Karl Hobbs said of Mensah-Bonsu. "He did all the things we needed him to do to win. We needed every rebound, every basket, and what I liked was absolutely every time we needed him to score, he got a basket."

George Washington (15-1, 5-0) is the only unbeaten team in the Atlantic 10 and is off to second-best start in school history. Only the 1953-54 Colonials were better, winning 19 of their first 20.

By contrast, Duquesne (2-15, 0-6) lost its ninth straight to match the 1989-90 team for the worst 17-game record in school history.

Despite the disparity in records, Duquesne led 21-15 in the first half and trailed by only one point, at 65-64, before the Colonials outscored them 29-14 the rest of the way.

Maureece Rice, coming off a 21-point game against Charlotte, helped lead the late surge by scoring all 10 of his points in the second half.

Mike Hall and Danilo Pinnock each scored 13 points and Omar Williams added 11 for George Washington. Mensah-Bonsu had 12 rebounds as the Colonials had a 42-33 edge on the boards.

"When we go into other people's gyms, we're going to get everybody `A' game, regardless of who we play and their record," Mensah-Bonsu said. "We need to take some more steps to learn how to pick our intensity up and play better defense."

Bryant McAllister led the Dukes with 23 points in their 21st loss to George Washington in their last 24 games. Duquesne has lost 18 consecutive games against ranked teams dating to a 78-70 win over Xavier nine years ago Wednesday.

Mensah-Bonsu was disappointed the Colonials didn't play up to expectations most of the game.

"Last year when we first were ranked, we weren't used to that," Mensah-Bonsu said of opponents playing up to GW's level. "I thought this year we knew that, but we didn't."

The 6-foot-9 Mensah-Bonsu began taking over the game after 6-8 Duquesne center Keith Gayden drew his third foul with nearly 11 minutes left in the first half. Gayden had nine points at the time, but scored only four more before fouling out in the second half after being limited to 16 minutes.

"I knew Coach Hobbs was going to emphasize getting me the ball. He knew we might have an edge on them in the interior, so I knew I had to be focused," Mensah-Bonsu said.

Immediately after Gayden went out, George Washington scored three consecutive baskets on dunks, two by Mensah-Bonsu and the other by Montrell McDonald, to key a 7-0 run. After that, the Colonials went on a 15-4 run to make it 42-35, but couldn't put the Dukes away until an 11-3 run in the second half keyed by two baskets by Williams gave them a 76-67 lead.

"Until we started to make some shots at the end, they were right in the ballgame," Hobbs said. "One thing I wanted to warn our guys about this team was they were going to be ready to play."

Mensah-Bonsu's previous career high was 27 points against Mount St. Mary's on Dec. 1, 2004, and his season's high had been 18 against Morgan State. He came into the game averaging 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds.

"He's the real deal. He's improved so much," Duquesne coach Danny Nee said. "He's going to be an NBA basketball player, that's for sure."

Duquesne, its roster trimmed by injuries, transfers and player departures, began the game with nine players and finished with seven as its two top inside players, Gayden and Devario Hudson, fouled out.

The announced crowd was 1,288, but only about 500 fans were in the stands at the start on a snowy night.