Monday, February 06, 2006

#8 Colonials Improve with Youth

The most tantalizing aspect of GW's 80-55 thumping of Richmond yesterday was not the borderline felonious defense, the balanced scoring, nor the dazzling display of dunkitude. No, the most appetizing item on the boxscore menu was the McDonald-Diggs combo platter: 29 minutes, eight points, three rebounds, three steals and one delightful assist.

Irrelevant verbosity aside, the Colonials continue to prove that they deserve their #8 ranking and can get even better by the end of the season. Following an emotional comeback win at Xavier, GW showed no signs of a letdown and simply dismantled the overmatched Spiders. Numerous Richmond possessions ended at halfcourt as the Colonials repeatedly denied their opponent any opportunity to set up their deliberate offense. GW forced 22 turnovers and kept Richmond's score in single digits for the first 15 minutes of the game.

On offense, GW shared the ball with Danilo Pinnock and Pops Mensah-Bonsu scoring 16 points each, and Mike Hall added 15. After a 21-point performance at Xavier, Maureece Rice stepped into the background, while Omar Williams stepped right into SportsCenter with a ferocious posterizing of Richmond's Drew Crank, one of eight GW dunks on the day. The Colonial's 80 points was slightly below their average (81.6) but 13 more than Richmond had given up all year.

The game was everything Colonials fans could hope for, but the development of McDonald and Diggs is the real story here. These were not garbage-time minutes against UMES or Kennesaw State. Both players got in the game early in the first half and made significant contributions against a league opponent in February. McDonald terrorized the Richmond ballhandlers at the point of the press, extending his hand like a traffic cop in his signature defensive stance. His quickness and wingspan led to several deflections and on offense, he needed only the tiniest space on the baseline to slide his slender frame past the defender before those long arms lay the ball in the hoop. Diggs' presence was less flashy, but clearly Hobbs has moved him ahead of Alex Kireev on the depth chart. He might be even skinnier than McDonald, but with all the pressure GW applies on the perimeter, quickness for size is a reasonable tradeoff on the interior.

Many members of the media argue that GW is overrrated, citing a soft schedule and the bad loss at North Carolina State; but this is not the same team that played more than a month ago in Raleigh, which was also the first game for Regis Koundjia. If you don't actually watch GW play and just dismiss their wins as easy blowouts of subpar opposition, you are missing the point. Check the boxscore and the play-by-play and see how many minutes McDonald and Diggs play and when they are getting in the game. If they keep improving, GW will be every bit as good as its ranking in March.

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