Yves Mekongo Mbala handled the first half, and his teammates took care of the rest of the game as La Salle downed George Washington, 76-66, in an Atlantic Ten Conference game tonight at Tom Gola Arena.
Mekongo Mbala finished with a game-high 26 points, but the junior forward's 22 points before the break gave the Explorers a lead they held through most of the second half. The 22 points by the half were the most by a La Salle player since Steve Smith put up 23 against Cincinnati in 2004.
La Salle didn't need his heroics in the second half, though. Rodney Green, Ruben Guillandeaux and Paul Johnson took the baton and finished off the Colonials, who have lost 10 in a row.
La Salle improved to 12-7 overall and 3-2 in the Atlantic Ten. George Washington is 6-12 and 0-6.
Green finished with 20 points and eight assists. Guillandeaux had 14 points - 11 after the break. And Johnson scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half. Former Chester High star Noel Wilmore paced the Colonials with 16 points.
The Explorers have won three straight and seven of their last nine.
After a first half in which he shot 1 of 5 from the floor, Guillandeaux found his range. The junior scored six of the Explorers' eight points during one stretch and La Salle kept GW at arm's length, leading, 48-40, with 13 minutes, 9 seconds remaining.
But the Colonials went on a 9-0 run, and when Wynton Witherspoon dropped a three-pointer from the wing, GW had a 49-48 lead with 9:35 to go. It was the Colonials' first lead since the 4:22 mark of the first half, when they were up, 30-29.
It took almost 13 minutes, but after a 22-point first-half performance, Mekongo Mbala had his first points of the second half when he converted two free throws. The points put La Salle back in front, 55-52. But GW jockeyed into the lead, 58-57, when Wilmore drained back-to-back treys.
Guillandeaux, though, hit a three-pointer, as did Green, and the Explorers started to inch away. Two more from Mekongo Mbala at the foul line gave La Salle a 66-60 margin with 2:25 remaining and the Explorers made their free throws down the stretch to hand GW its tenth straight defeat.
There were 15 lead changes in the first half, but Mekongo Mbala gave La Salle a 36-31 cushion at the break.
The junior forward not only led all scorers with 22 points in the half, he eclipsed his season high of 17 points.
Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.