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New Orleans—(excerpts taken from www.GCAConf.com) For the first time in its storied history, the Allstate Sugar Bowl Bleu Devil Classic will air on broadcast television. The second of two annual matchups between Dillard University and Xavier University's men's basketball teams will be shown live on WNOL 38 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The game is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Battlefield at Dent Hall, located on the campus of Dillard University. Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m., moving up one hour to accommodate the television schedule.
The event is a partnership between the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference, sponsor Styll Premium Alkaline Water and WGNO-TV.
"This is a great opportunity to showcase our institution as well as small college basketball," said Dillard University Director of Athletics and GCAC President Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes.
Last week, the #7 Bleu Devils (19-6, 9-1 GCAC) were crowned 2017 GCAC Men's Basketball Regular Season Champions for the first time since 2001 with a 108-76 blowout victory at home over last year's regular season champs in Talladega College, and at the time Dillard still had three conference games remaining. They are led by senior NAIA All-American power forward Demetric Austin (SR/Washington, D.C.) who leads the team in both scoring and rebounds with 20.2 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game respectively. Austin, who is ranked eighth in the NAIA in scoring, has been one of the key pieces and has been instrumental to restoring the Dillard University men's basketball program.
"This is the best game of the year in terms of atmosphere because the Battlefield is always a full house for the Classic, but other than that it is just another game for us, another obstacle in our way of a national championship" said Austin, who scored 22 points in last year's GCAC Championship Game 84-71 victory over the Gold Rush at the Convocation Center and was crowned 2016 GCAC Men's Basketball Tournament Most Valuable Player.
Despite already clinching the GCAC regular season title, the Bleu Devils do not in the least bit think that this is a meaningless game. In fact, the team recently had its 11-game win streak snapped with a road loss at Philander Smith in Arkansas on Monday night, so the focus is now on its next opponent in the Gold Rush. No matter what the records may be, this rivalry is always alive and well.
"The Dillard and Xavier rivalry means a lot to me," said Montrey Thomas (SO/Shreveport, La.), who was named 2016 GCAC Men's Basketball Freshman of the Year. "I've always been a big fan of rivalries, and the excitement of the game always brings the thrill to me. It makes me want to raise my game to another level."
As for Dillard Bleu Devils Head Coach Mike Newell, his abhorrence for the Xavier Gold Rush stems from way back before his Bleu Devil basketball players were born.
"Well it does go deep for me because during my senior year in college when we were number one in the country and the number one seed in the national tournament, Xavier was the team that upset us in Kansas City, so that is something that has always stuck out in my mind and it's ironic that when I took this job, come to find out they are in the same conference," said Newell. "They are a great institution, and I'm honored to be a part of the rivalry, especially last year, and I look forward to this year as well."
Click here to purchase tickets to the 2017 Allstate Sugar Bowl Bleu Devil Classic.
"See you at the Battlefield on Saturday," said Newell, who smiled and exclaimed, "it's going to be fun!"