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|Philander Smith (Ark.) 14-16||27||49||76|
|Dillard University 20-10||38||57||95|
|Mar. 5, 2016|
|New Orleans, LA|
|Philander Smith (Ark.)||Indv. Leaders||Dillard University|
|#4 Ronald March - 27||Points||#23 Demetric Austin - 34|
|3 Players - 6||Rebounds||#23 Demetric Austin - 14|
|#3 Nelson Ollie - 5||Assists||#32 Dennis Hightower - 10|
|Philander Smith (Ark.)||Team Statistics||Dillard University|
|40.8% (29 - 71)||Field Goals %||48.6% (35 - 72)|
|26.9% (7 - 26)||3 Point Field Goals %||33.3% (5 - 15)|
|64.7% (11 - 17)||Free Throws||80% (20 - 25)|
|5||2nd Chance Pts||11|
New Orleans — In the semi-final round of the 2016 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Men's Basketball tournament, the NAIA's 25th ranked Dillard Bleu Devils picked up its 20th win of the season by crushing the Philander Smith College Panthers by the score of 95-76 at the Convocation Center. Dillard is 3-0 against PSC this season as they advance to their first GCAC Championship Game since 2013, this time against crosstown Rival Xavier University, who knocked off the tourney's number one seed Talladega. Dillard split the season series vs. the Gold Rush, winning at home in the Bleu Devil Classic in a thrilling overtime contest and falling on the road at the Crosstown Classic.
In the victory, Dillard was led by GCAC Newcomer of the Year Demetric Austin (JR/Washington, D.C.) who finished with a career-high 34 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Austin was marvelous all night, nailing 10-of-11 free throws and burying 11-of-18 shots from the floor. Point guard Dennis Hightower (JR/Chicago, Ill.) had a sensational night for the Bleu Devils and finished with a triple-double, scoring 19 points, dishing out 10 assists and pulling down 11 boards in 36 minutes. Junior Dennis Reed (JR/England, Ark.) was instrumental for the Bleu Devils in the post, scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds as he often battled against Panthers big man Chris Ward, who only finished with six points and six rebounds in the loss while teammate and Second Team All-GCAC pick Ronald March scored team-high 27 points and grabbed six boards. March and sharp-shooter Rashad Brackeen desperately tried to shoot their way back into the game as Brackeen scored 21 points and hit a game-high five 3-pointers for the Panthers, but March was 1-for-10 from behind the arc and settled for long-range shots despite his coach yelling "take it to the basket" all night.
"Our whole deal through my years in all the tournaments I've been a part of is that you don't have to the best, you just have to be the best on that particular night," said Bleu Devils head coach Mike Newell, who has his team in the conference championship game in just his first year at Dillard. In the summer, Newell and assistant coach Edward Newton took over a 5-win team that is already + 15 in the win column, good for number one in the NAIA in terms of most improved teams from last year. Ironically, both him and Xavier head coach Dannton Jackson are looking for their first GCAC tournament championship victory. The only difference is that Newell is in his inaugural season and Jackson is in his 13th season with their respective programs.
"We are working on building a brand here at Dillard," said Coach Newell. "Education plus basketball is important. We are not a flash in the pan. We are here to be known as a nationally known program, and everybody has to buy in from within. That includes administration, faculty, staff and students."
The stage is set; the Dillard University Bleu Devils versus the Xavier University Gold Rush in the GCAC Championship game. As a basketball fan; as an HBCU student or alumni, what more could you ask for? If you are a Dillard fan, it is the rematch of the Bleu Devil Classic, and if you are a Xavier fan, then it is the rematch of the Crosstown Classic. Tip-off is set for 4:15 on Sunday, March 6 at the Convocation Center on the campus of XU.
For more information on the 2016 GCAC Tournament, click here.
*Photos provided by Y. Tsega