Diggs powers Colonials past American

Wednesday, December 17

Head men’s basketball coach Karl Hobbs’s recipe for success against crosstown rival American University was simple: get Rob Diggs the ball.

Diggs, who has gotten off to a slow start this season, responded with a season-high 17 points, leading GW to a 63-50 win over AU at the Smith Center.

The 2,653 fans in attendance saw a game that, while not pretty, was hardly uneventful. The two teams shot a combined 35.9 percent from the floor, but each played with an intensity more befitting of a late season conference game than a mid-exam period out of conference matchup. AU’s Brian Gilmore-who led all scorers with 23 points-received a flagrant foul after getting into it with GW junior Damian Hollis, who later received a technical foul of his own for an elbow.

“It kind of started happening towards the first half, he bumped me then I bumped him,” said Hollis, who scored nine points and leads GW by averaging 12.4 points per game. “One of the keys in practice was when they tap on your chest, you have to tap back. So that’s exactly what I did.”

Added AU coach Jeff Jones, “You had two teams really, really battling hard today. It wasn’t pretty but for those people who can appreciate good defense and guys out there really scrapping, it was a good evening.”

It was an especially good evening for senior forward Diggs. Though he made just four of 13 shot attempts, GW (5-2) seemed to try to get him the ball every possession, especially in the second half. Hobbs said he thought Diggs was too fast for AU center Frane Markusovic, so the Eagles were forced to put smaller defenders on the 6-foot-9 Maryland native, creating a mismatch.

“It felt really good that my teammates were starting to find me,” said Diggs, who made nine of 10 free throw attempts.

When asked by a reporter if he felt like he was starting to get into an offensive rhythm, Diggs hesitated and answered “somewhat.”

Redshirt sophomore point guard Travis King played 21 minutes, the most since he suffered a broken kneecap, which kept him out all of last year. The New Haven, Conn. native looked less hesitant than he has in recent games and seems to have recovered much of his explosiveness.

Defensively, GW pressed more than it has this season, forcing AU to turn the ball over a few times. The Colonials also benefitted from a 1-of-14 performance from Eagles shooting guard Garrison Carr, their leading scorer. Jones said Carr had open looks, but could not shake off his recent struggles.

“With him going well, we’re not exactly an offensive juggernaut,” Jones said. “Even on an off night we need him to keep plugging.”

After the game, both coaches spoke about the increased intensity that comes with playing a local team. A noticeable percentage of AU fans made the short trip from Tenleytown, provoking GW fans to cheer harder and, presumably, players to play harder.

The Colonials, however, should not expect a similar number of transported games at their next four games. GW next plays Dec. 23 at Sacramento State before the Colonials head to Hawaii for three games in the Rainbow Classic. Hobbs told WFED Radio after the game that the trip would serve as a “bonding experience” for his team before conference play.

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