Dukes Double-Digit Favorites for GW Game

Duquesne goes into Wednesday's night's game with George Washington as double-digit (10.5) favorites for the first time in this writer's memory, as favorites that is. And GW was dealt a blow today with the announcement that Xavier Alexander, a 6-foot-7 sophomore guard, has withdrawn from school and will transfer.

Xavier Alexander started 12 of 13 games this season and was averaging 3.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 20.6 minutes per game. He was not listed as a starter for tonight's contest.

Back to tonight's game. George Washington (6-7, 0-1), which holds a 42-24 edge in the series, has won 22 of the past 26 games but has lost five in a row, including Saturday's 60-48 home loss to Richmond. The Dukes (11-4, 2-0), meanwhile, are on a six-game winning streak with the opportunity for the program's first-ever 3-0 start in conference play.

In last year's game, which also was in Pittsburgh, Duquesne led from start to finish and took a 92-67 victory. The Dukes had a double-digit lead from the 15:12 mark of the first half, led by 21 at the half and by as many as 32 points in the final period.

Once again, Duquesne will be at a size disadvantage. The Colonials starters are set to be three forwards, 6-foot-8 senior Rob Diggs, 6-foot-7 senior Wynton Witherspoon and 6-foot-8 junior Damian Hollis, and two guards, 6-foot-2 redshirt sophomore Travis King and 6-foot-1 freshman Tony Taylor.

Diggs, an Atlantic 10 preseason second team pick, is averaging 12.0 ppg and 7.6 rpg. Hollis averages 11.7 ppg and 5.0 rpg. Reserve 6-foot-3 senior guard Noel Wilmore is the third leading scorer with 8.3 ppg. Alexander's 3.2 rpg had been third -- no. three on the boards is now Witherspoon's 2.7 rpg. The guards (King, Taylor) both average 6.8 ppg and combine for 5.4 apg.

In addition to losing Alexander, there is turmoil in Sleepy Hollow. According to the campus student newspaper,GW Hatchet, Coach Karl Hobbs is getting a lot of pressure because of the current losing streak. Now in his eighth season, Hobbs has a 129-89 record at the Washington, D.C. school. Last season the team finished 9-17, 5-11 in the A-10, and missed the postseason for the first time in 31 years, i.e., since the founding of the ECBL in 1976-77.

The fan message board at GWHoops.com has been calling for his head. GW's administration says, per GWHatchet interview with senior VP Robert Chernak, there won't be a change during this season but a hard look will probably be taken if the Colonials miss the A-10 tournament again.

Chernak added that he was "confused by some of Hobbs' substitution patterns and benching of the team's best players (Hollis and Diggs) in game versus Coppin State, a MEAC team from Baltimore, Md. The Eagles had a 1-10 record coming into the seventh place game at the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, H'awaii, and came away with a 59-53 win.

Athletic Director Jack Kvancz is quoted in the Washington Post that he has been "wondering whether it's time to turn out the gym lights earlier each night to save on electricity and heating bills."

But not all GW folks are throwing in the towel. A fan got, "Marion, DC: George Washington should be ranked their guards and Robb Diggs will get them deep into the tourney" into ESPN's text ticker during a recent Conference USA game.

The Colonials composure may be shaken or the team may meld together and answer their critics. The book indicates the latter is unlikely.

Misc. Notes

  • Wynton Witherspoon hasn't been to the free throw line in 200 minutes. He's played in nine of GW's first 13 games.
  • Travis King missed all but one minute in one game last season. Lacking a true point guard had a significant impact on the team last year. Now they have two starting, i.e., Tony Taylor is the other.
  • GW is averaging 5.1 blocks per game, with Rob Diggs leading at 1.2 bpg. DU averages 3.1, Damian Saunders has 33 of the 47 for 2.2 bpg.
  • Redshirt freshman 6-foot-10 forward Jabari Edwards missed all but 2 games in 2007-08. His only action has been one minute in January 3rd's 12-point loss at Longwood.
  • Junior 6-foot-9 forward Hermann Opoku, who was born in Vienna, Austria, shoots 75.0 percent from the field (18/24) but 52.4% from the foul line (11/21).
  • Tony Taylor is from Sleepy Hollow, New York, for you Icabod Crane fans.