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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Men smothered by Xavier in Ohio

CINCINNATI, Ohio – Coming into Sunday’s clash with GW, No. 15/16 Xavier (AP, ESPN/USA Today) head coach Sean Miller called his slumping defense a “warm fluffy blanket” against which opposing offenses found comfort.

The Colonials found the Musketeers’ defense to be blanket-like, but not in the way Miller described it. Instead, GW’s offense found itself in a frustrating slumber, never truly awakening en route to a 71-53 defeat at the hands of the current conference leaders.

After senior Rob Diggs opened the game’s scoring with a fast-break dunk after two minutes of scorelessness, Xavier began an offensive onslaught that included six three-pointers in the team’s first nine attempts. By the time things settled down, head coach Karl Hobbs said, the Musketeers had put the Colonials (8-16, 2-10 Atlantic 10) at such an immediate disadvantage that mounting a comeback would take a particularly outstanding performance.

“We had to try to control the tempo,” Hobbs said of his team’s plan entering the game. “If they get an early 10 or 12-point lead in their building, that’s going to be a pretty hard mountain to climb, and obviously that was the case today.

From then on, GW’s defensive efforts were mostly up to par. That early Musketeer scoring burst resulted in Xavier shooting more than 52 percent from the field in the first half, but the Colonials’ defense settled down after halftime. The Musketeers shot a much more manageable 36 percent after the break, though GW’s offensive play failed to match their performance on the defensive end.

“Our defense was good enough, our offense was not good enough,” Hobbs said. “We stopped them enough times; we just couldn’t get any points up.

A large part of the problem, according to Hobbs, was Diggs being largely absent from both the box score and the court itself. The 6-foot-9 forward failed to score after his initial basket as he racked up personal fouls and, consequently, minutes on the sideline.

“He missed the early shots, then you couple that with him getting in foul trouble, so now the whole second half he’s got to sit on the bench,” Hobbs said. “He goes back in and he’s cold, not warmed up, so he never really got into the game.”

All told, Diggs – the Colonials’ leading scorer and rebounder entering the game – tallied just two points in 16 minutes, his lowest totals in either category this season outside of a scoreless 13 minutes in a Dec. 30 loss to Coppin State. It was a far cry from the 26-point, eight-rebound output in Thursday’s win over St. Bonaventure that earned him A-10 Player of the Week honors for the second time in his career.

It was a game more like the latter that the Colonials needed to upset their nationally ranked hosts Sunday.

“It’s a very difficult game to win when your best player is struggling,” Hobbs said. “In order to beat this kind of team in their building, you need your best player to be at his best and you need everyone else to be at their best.”

Now the attention turns to Wednesday’s home date with Charlotte, who decisively knocked off both GW last weekend and Xavier on Thursday. The 49ers are part of a cluster of teams that currently separate GW from qualifying for March’s A-10 tournament, a gap the Colonials need to begin closing with just four games remaining on the schedule.

Wednesday’s start is scheduled for 9 p.m.

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