Friday, Feb. 20
Less than a dozen minutes into Thursday’s game against St. Bonaventure, senior Rob Diggs had 15 points. And the Bonnies had 13.
It was that kind of night for the Brandywine, Md. native, whose season-high 26 points powered the Colonials early and often en route to a dominant 90-62 victory.
Diggs’s scoring came in a variety of fashions as he put up 10 of GW’s (8-15, 2-9 Atlantic 10) first 12 points. He opened the game with a three-pointer, adding another less than two minutes later. There was also a short jumper in the paint, a strong two-handed dunk in transition – all coming as the senior forward looked to deliver a message to his teammates.
“I just tried to come out and let the team know that we’re still in it,” he said. “We can still accomplish something real special as a team.”
That wasn’t the only message Diggs sent, as he certainly made an impression on St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt.
“There’s not very many players better than Diggs in our league,” Schmidt remarked after the game.
But Diggs wasn’t alone in doing the damage. Junior Damian Hollis provided some spark with a resounding, high-elevation dunk over a defender as the Colonials built their early lead. Senior Noel Wilmore chipped in a pair of threes – his only points on the night – as it became apparent early that GW was poised to collect its second conference win of the season.
Sophomore Joseph Katuka’s strong play off the bench ensured that Hobbs could rest his one-man scoring machine without much worry. Katuka matched his own career high with 13 points while adding five rebounds in his relief role.
“Right now I’m getting more comfortable with my role on the team, and I’m trying to do what coach wants me to do. Just go deep, play defense – and rebound,” he said after the game, adding the last bit with prodding from Hobbs.
It would seem Katuka was just one of many Colonials who fulfilled Hobbs’s demands Thursday night. A total of five GW players scored in double figures, with Hollis, sophomore Travis King and senior Wynton Witherspoon joining Diggs and Katuka. GW also tallied 23 assists on 33 field goals while stealing the ball from the Bonnies 15 times – totals Hobbs referred to as “old GW stats” in praising his team’s performance.
“There are times when you play hard, you do all the right things, and you feel you are deserving of a win and it doesn’t necessarily come,” the eight-year head coach said. “The thing I’m most happy about for these guys is that they were deserving of a win and they got it tonight.”
The win is GW’s first since defeating Fordham in similar fashion Feb. 7 and only their second since Dec. 23. Its significance lies not only in its rarity but its potential impact on the conference standings. The Colonials now trail the Bonnies by one-and-a-half games for the A-10’s all-important 12th place, the cutoff point for teams to reach March’s conference tournament in Atlantic City, N.J. With five games remaining on the season slate, gaining a game on the team directly ahead of them is a big boost to GW.
For Diggs, these last few games represent more than the season winding down – they represent the home stretch of his collegiate career. Hobbs, as coaches often do, try to downplay the standings as background concerns, but Diggs said the urgency of the situation has the potential trip to Atlantic City occupying a more prominent spot in his priorities.
“Oh, it’s in the front of my mind,” Diggs said with a smile, eliciting laughter in the room. “I’m just trying to get us there. I’m trying to take each game one at a time and just keep guys ready to play.”
GW will next travel to No. 15/16 Xavier (AP, ESPN/USA Today) for a Sunday afternoon matchup with the suddenly cold Musketeers. Xavier has lost three of their last four games, but still sit second in the A-10. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.