The Dillard Bleu Devils are 2016 GCAC Men's Basketball champions.
The Dillard Bleu Devils are 2016 GCAC Men's Basketball champions.
Men's Basketball - Mon, Mar. 7, 2016
Xavier (La.) 21-12314071
Dillard University 21-11404484
Mar. 6, 2016
New Orleans, LA
Attendance: 1,726
Xavier (La.)Indv. LeadersDillard University
#12 Gary Smith - 24Points #23 Demetric Austin - 22
#24 Elex Carter - 10Rebounds #21 Dennis Reed - 10
2 Players (#4,#12) - 5Assists #32 Dennis Hightower - 11
Xavier (La.)Team StatisticsDillard University
37.5% (24 - 64) Field Goals % 55.6% (25 - 45)
36% (9 - 25) 3 Point Field Goals % 54.5% (12 - 22)
66.7% (14 - 21) Free Throws 81.5% (22 - 27)
32Rebounds 31
18Assists 22
10Turnovers 16
112nd Chance Pts 9

New Orleans — The number two seed Dillard University Bleu Devils are 2016 Gulf Coast Athletic Men's Basketball Champions after knocking off the number four seed Xavier University Gold Rush by the score of 84-71 at the Convocation Center on the campus of Xavier. Dillard earns an automatic post-season berth as they punch their ticket to the NAIA national championship tournament in Kansas City.

"Well this is big, there's no doubt about it, particularly when you start getting in my age (range), they are all big," said first year head coach Mike Newell. "I'm just happy for Dillard and the alumni, fans, students, faculty and staff. They've been a long time waiting, so I'm proud of the kids." Newell and assistant coach Edward Newton have won as many games this season (21) as the past five seasons combined and have also led the starving program from five wins (+ 16) to a 21-10 record, which is good for most improved team in the NAIA.

"I'm so happy for those young men and what they accomplished," said Newton.

In the victory, Dillard was led by GCAC Newcomer of the Year and First Team All-GCAC big man Demetric Austin (JR/Washington, D.C.) who finished with a team-high 22 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists. Once again, Austin was nearly flawless all night from the charity stripe, nailing 8-of-10 free throws while hitting 6-of-11 shots from the floor. Teammate Houston Chatman (JR/Houma, La.) was a flame-thrower in the opening half and hit three 3-pointers to give Dillard a double-digit lead. The red-shirt senior who has one more year of eligibility finished a perfect 4-of-4 from behind the arc and scored a season-high 18 points and produced three assists in the biggest game of his life. Sharp-shooter Jessie Ward (SO/Maringouin, La.) was also marvelous from downtown, nailing 4-of-10 three-pointers in the win as he filled up the stat sheet with five rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block and was the only player on the floor to play the entire 40 minutes. As for Dennis Reed (JR/England, Ark.), the Arkansas native finished with his second double-double of the tournament, scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 boards, including a team-high five offensive rebounds.

"Months ago, I made a promise to our S.I.D., and tonight I told him that I don't break my promises," said a smiling Austin, who was not only named to the GCAC All-Tournament team, but was named GCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player as he averaged 27.6 points per game, 9.3 rebounds per game, nailed 84 percent of his free throws (26-of-31) and shot 63 percent from the floor (25-of-40). Ward and point guard Dennis Hightower (JR/Chicago, Ill.) were also named to the GCAC All-Tournament team as Hightower finished with just six points but had a game-high 11 assists.

As a team the Bleu Devils actually lost the rebounding battle by one, (32 to 31), but it didn't matter as Dillard shot 56 percent from the field (25-of-45) while Xavier shot a dismal 38 percent (24-of-64). Dillard picked the perfect night to get hot from downtown, draining a season-high 12 3-pointers (55 percent) on Xavier's own floor. In the previous two regular-season games against Xavier, Dillard hit a total of only nine three-pointers; five in the Crosstown Classic and four in the Bleu Devil Classic.

In the second half, Dillard made 14-of-15 free throws and shot 82 percent for the game from the charity stripe.

The Bleu Devils were unselfish all night and produced 22 assists to 18 for the Gold Rush, who were led by Gary Smith who finished with a game-high 24 points while teammate and First Team All-GCAC point guard Morris Wright scored 16 points in the loss.

The Cinderella season continues for the mighty Bleu Devils. Coach Newell simply had one phrase to sum up his feelings.

"Hail Dillard."

For more information on the 2016 GCAC Tournament, click here.

*Photos provided by J. Williams

Record: 0-0 Home: 0-0 Away: 0-0 GCAC: 0-0