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Xavier's point guard Wanto Joseph wore a look of frustration during much of Saturday's 54-34 GCAC victory against cross-town rival Dillard on Saturday at Dillard. Shots weren't falling for him or, for that matter, his teammates. But Joseph, a senior guard for the 11th-ranked Gold Rush, said not every victory is going to be an offensive work of art. Defense and the Gold Rush inside game propelled them to victory against the Bleu Devils at the Bleu Devil Classic.
It was a defensive stand right before the half that turned Saturday's game in full favor of the Gold Rush. Dillard's top scorer, freshman Tyrone Williams, scored nine points in the loss. Williams also added one rebound, one assist and one block in just under 33 minutes.
Leading by six in the first half, 22-16, the Gold Rush began to pull away. Joseph made two free throws to give Xavier a 24-16 lead with 1:16 to play. On the ensuing possession, he stole the ball and made a layup with 1:04 to play for a 26-16.
Seconds later, he did it again with a steal and layup for a 28-16 lead with 40 seconds left in the half that would stand as the halftime score. Joseph finished with 12 points, four below his 16.7 average.
Dillard (2-14, 1-6) really never challenged after that in second half and never got closer than 10 points.
Joseph had six steals in the game as the Gold Rush forced 20 Dillard turnovers.
Xavier's frustrations came on offense as the Gold Rush could never shoot Coach Bernard Griffith and the Bleu Devils out of their tough zone defense.
The Gold Rush were 23 of 52 from the field (44 percent) but made only 1 of 12 shots from 3-point range. But Xavier forwards Anthony Simmons and Denzell Erves came to the rescue. The two combined for 28 points and 17 rebounds and dominated the paint all night.
They also helped Xavier to a huge rebounding advantage. The Gold Rush had 30 rebounds, 11 offensive, to Dillard's 13 and allowed the Bleu Devils only two offensive boards.
The Bleu Devils look to bounce back on Saturday, February 2 as they host Edward Waters College at 5:00 p.m. in the Battlefield.
By Trey IIes
photo provided by Peter Forest