NEW ORLEANS (XULAGold.com) — Demetric Austin scored 18 of his 22 points in the first half Sunday to lead NAIA No. 25 Dillard to an 84-71 men's basketball victory against Xavier University of Louisiana in the championship game of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament at XU's Convocation Center.
The Bleu Devils (21-11) won the tournament for the first time since 2001 and earned an automatic berth in the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I National Championship at Kansas City, Mo. Dillard will compete at nationals for the first time since 2003. Xavier (21-12), a qualifier for nationals each of the last five seasons, will learn Wednesday if it earns an at-large berth.
First-round games at nationals will be March 16-17.
Dillard took the lead for good, 9-7, on a Houston Chatman 3-pointer during the seventh minute. The Bleu Devils made 6-of-9 3-pointers in the first half, 12-of-22 for the game, and shot 55.6 percent from the floor.
Austin was chosen tournament MVP. Xavier's Morris Wright, who scored 16 points and made four 3-pointers, made the all-tournament team.
Jessie Ward scored 19 points and Chatman 18 for Dillard, and Dennis Reed had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Gary Smith made four 3-pointers and scored 24 points for the Gold Rush, RJ Daniels had 11 points and a career-high five assists, and Elex Carter and 11 points and 10 rebounds in his second double-double of the season.
Dillard, the tournament's No. 2 seed, led 40-31 at halftime and by double digits for the final 19:08. Xavier was the fourth seed.
It was the first time the longtime city rivals had been matched in a GCAC Tournament final. Xavier, which hasn't won the tournament since 1996, lost at home in the final for the second consecutive year. The Gold Rush eliminated two-time defending champion Talladega, the GCAC's top seed and ranked fourth in the NAIA, during the semifinals Saturday.
Before Sunday, Dillard had lost nine straight to Xavier on XU's campus since a 63-50 victory Jan. 25, 1999. The victory was the Bleu Devils' second in three meetings this season with the Gold Rush; it was the first time since 2001 that Dillard beat Xavier twice in the same season. Xavier leads the series, which began in the 1940s, 84-51.