Basketball Notebook: Katuka steps in, steps up

CINCINNATI, Ohio – With senior frontcourt stalwart Rob Diggs taking a seat on the bench due to foul trouble in Sunday’s 71-53 loss to No. 15/16 Xavier (AP, ESPN/USA Today), sophomore Joseph Katuka got a chance to show what he could do against the big boys’ big bodies – and he capitalized.

The 6-foot-11 center made his presence felt as soon as he entered the game as he blocked consecutive Musketeer shots, the second of which was ruled a held ball that resulted in possession for GW. He turned away two more shot attempts over the course of the game to finish with a game-high four, helping to limit Xavier’s talented frontcourt starters to 6-of-18 shooting.

“He controlled their big guys,” head coach Karl Hobbs said of Katuka. “Their big guys never got a chance to dominate or make a difference in this game today. He neutralized both of their big guys. I thought he did a terrific job.”

There were times when the relatively inexperienced Katuka showed he may still be a work in progress, drawing a double-technical foul with Xavier’s Dante Jackson and being whistled for an illegal screen in the second half. He was also called for entering the lane too early during a free-throw attempt by freshman Aaron Ware, but Hobbs said these mishaps were slight compared to his overall influence on the game.

“He had a great game. I don’t know about some lane violation,” Hobbs said. “He was terrific.”

Cash rules everything around A-10

It wasn’t long ago that clashes between the Colonials and Musketeers meant a battle for A-10 supremacy, a significance lost as GW now endures consecutive down years. Xavier entered Sunday’s game going through a brief rough patch of their own – dropping three of their last four, all away from home – but Hobbs said he knew their struggles wouldn’t matter once the teams hit the court.

“Whether they were struggling or not, they were a good basketball team,” Hobbs said. “I’ve been coming in this building every year since I’ve been coach here, and they’re tough here no matter what the circumstances are.”

The Musketeers have become the face of the Atlantic 10, winning at least a piece of the conference’s regular season or postseason championship in six of the last seven seasons. They have a particularly favorable history against GW, leading the all-time series 23-9 while winning 16 of the last 19 meetings. Hobbs, who is now 2-13 against Xavier, has an inkling of the driving force behind their success.

“Why don’t you walk around this facility, walk in their locker room and then you can figure out why they’re always good every year,” Hobbs said of the 10,000-seat Cintas Center, the Musketeers’ home arena, at which they went undefeated this year and 6-1 against GW all-time. “And then I want you to go back and compare it to GW.”

Xavier was the only school not from one of college basketball’s six major conferences to make Forbes Magazine’s list of the 20 most valuable men’s basketball programs last year, with the magazine assigning it a $10.7 million value on the back of $6.3 million in profit. According to the Web site Basketball State, Xavier ranks 57th in the nation in men’s basketball expenses. The site lists GW as 90th.

The Cintas Center, which opened in June 2000, cost $46 million to build and was financed through private donations, according to its official Web site. The recent renovations on the 34-year-old Smith Center are expected to cost $25 million.

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