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Dillard's men's basketball team endured growing pains throughout the course of the season, but managed to more than double its win total from last year as they enter the 2013 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference basketball tournament in Little Rock on the campus of Philander Smith College.
Unfortunately, the eighth seeded Bleu Devils have the tough challenge of facing the top seed in the tournament in Xavier University. In two games this season, Dillard suffered losses of 20 points (at the Bleu Devil Classic) and 24 points (at the Crosstown Classic) on the campus of Xavier University on February 23. Thursday's first round game will mark the third meeting between the two "New Orleans based" teams. Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m. at Barton Coliseum.
In the latter game, the Gold Rush had four players who scored in double figures on a night where over 2,500 spectators watched. Xavier's Denzell Erves led the way with 17 points, eight boards, three assists, one block and one steal, and Anthony Simmons had a strong game and finished with 13 points and four rebounds for Xavier.
Wanto Joseph had an efficient game, notching a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists in only 28 minutes of action for Xavier.
In two games versus the Gold Rush, Dillard (3-20 overall, 2-12 GCAC) was led by freshman Jarrain Jenkins who averaged 10 points and 3.5 rebounds per game against Xavier. Sophomore Jeremy Rixner was held to just two points and two rebounds in the first meeting against Xavier in the Battlefield, but in the second game he improved his output by scoring 12 points, four steals, two rebounds and one block.
Only once have the Bleu Devils scored more than 20 points in a half against Xavier this season; it was done in the second half of the game played on Feb. 23 where Dillard was only outscored by three. Bernard Griffith, head coach of the Bleu Devils, feels like his team can build on this and possibly pull off the upset.
"They only beat us by three points in the second half of the last game," said Coach Griffith. "We need to build on that and execute plays at the tournament."
Dillard rides a two-game losing streak entering Thursday's contest.
*Photo provided by Rusty Costanza