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|Feb. 27, 2016|
|Xavier (La.)||Indv. Leaders||Dillard University|
|#14 Morris Wright - 18||Points||#23 Demetric Austin - 24|
|3 Players - 7||Rebounds||#23 Demetric Austin - 14|
|#14 Morris Wright - 5||Assists||#32 Dennis Hightower - 7|
|Xavier (La.)||Team Statistics||Dillard University|
|49% (25 - 51)||Field Goals %||33.3% (21 - 63)|
|42.9% (3 - 7)||3 Point Field Goals %||14.3% (4 - 28)|
|58.8% (10 - 17)||Free Throws||70% (21 - 30)|
|0||2nd Chance Pts||16|
New Orleans—With 16 seconds left in regulation in the 2016 Allstate Sugar Bowl Bleu Devil Classic, the score was tied at 52 apiece when Dillard freshman Montrey Thomas (FR/Shreveport, La.) made a strong move to the basket and buried what looked like the game-winning shot for the Bleu Devils, but Xavier's Gary Smith tied the game with a bucket of his own with only eight seconds left, sending the game to overtime in front of a sold out crowd at the Battlefield in Dent Hall.
In OT, Houston Chatman (JR/Houma, La.) and Jesse Ward (SO/Maringouin, La.) both had series of plays that lifted the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics' 25th ranked team in the nation over the Xavier Gold Rush by the score of 67-63 (OT). In fact, Ward put a dagger in the heart of Xavier's fans as he hit a deadly 3-pointer with under two minutes left in overtime, extending his team's lead to five points. The unsung hero from Maringouin also made a huge defensive play by producing the game-clinching steal as he intercepted a pass from Gold Rush guard Morris Wright with six seconds left in OT, not allowing Xavier to even have a chance to tie the game with a three-pointer.
"It was a great college game at the Battlefield and I'm happy for all the alumni who flew back in from all over the country," said head coach Mike Newell, who led his group to defeat every single team in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference at least once this season, including Talladega, who finished the season with only one conference loss.
"That's what this is all about, to build a program that they (alumni) can be proud of, and our kids represented them in a first class manner," said Newell. "I am truly happy for the alumni, faculty and staff of Dillard University."
The Bleu Devils (18-10, 8-4 GCAC) were led by Demetric Austin (JR/Washington, D.C.) who had a monster game, scoring a game-high 24 points and grabbing a game-high 14 boards (8 offensive) in the victory. Austin calmly nailed a crucial 12-of-16 shots from the foul line, and some of those free throws came in the most vital parts of the game.
Ward ended up with 12 points for the Bleu Devils while Wright finished with a team-high 18 points for Xavier.
"18 wins is quite an accomplishment, and now we have an opportunity to play in the conference tournament," said Newell. "Records go out the window and now everyone goes back to 0-0. I feel our chances are good to go to Kansas City (NAIA national tournament)."
With 18 wins, Dillard finishes regular season play as the most improved team in the NAIA (5 wins last season), but they clearly are not finished. The turnaround is in full affect. No matter what happens during next week's GCAC tournament, this special group of young men will be remembered for bringing the program back to the national spotlight after ten years of losing.
The win is Dillard's first victory at home against the Gold Rush since 2001.
"It's a great day to be a Bleu Devil," said Newell.
*Photo provided by J. Williams