XULA beats 24th-ranked Dillard, improves to 4-0 in GCAC

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NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana men’s basketball gave longtime city rival Dillard its first loss of the season Monday and moved a step closer to some end-of-season goals.

XULA — a 73-69 winner against the Bleu Devils in Gulf Coast Athletic Conference group play at XULA’s Convocation Center — can clinch a tie for the GCAC regular-season championship and lock up the No. 1 seed for the GCAC Tournament with a victory against Talladega in a Tuesday game that will tip off at noon.

Xavier and Talladega are 4-0 apiece in the GCAC, and Dillard is 3-1. In Wednesday’s league finales, XULA will play Edward Waters, and Talladega will play Dillard.

Talladega is ranked 14th in the NAIA, Dillard is 24th, and XULA heads the list of “others receiving votes” in the most recent poll. The next poll will be announced Feb. 10.

A year ago XULA won the GCAC regular-season’ championship, then won the GCAC Tournament for the first time since 1996.

Corey Dunning was stunning for XULA against Dillard, producing career- and game-highs of 21 points and 10 rebounds. The 6-foot-9 freshman also had three dunks, two assists and a block.

Rayshawn Mart overcame three first-half fouls to finish with 14 points for XULA, which is 8-2 overall. Makye Richard had 12 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and no turnovers, and TJ Jones had 11 points, five assists and three steals.

Dillard (3-1, 3-1) rallied from 15 down to take a pair of two-point leads in the final four minutes, but XULA outscored Dillard 6-0 in the final two minutes. A Mart basket at 1:16 put XULA ahead to stay, and Dunning made 2-of-2 free throws for the final points with 26 seconds remaining.

The Bleu Devils missed a pair of 3s on its final possession, and Jones ended the game with a steal.

Dillard had four double-figure scorers, led by Da’Rell Dominieck with 17 points and eight rebounds and Malik Amos with 16.

XULA trailed 22-17 after Mart picked up his third foul and exited the game at 7:34 of the first half, but XULA closed the first half with a 22-6 run to take a 39-28 halftime lead.

The other Tuesday games at XULA will match Philander Smith against Tougaloo at 2:30 p.m. and Dillard against Edward Waters at 5. On Monday Edward Waters beat Philander Smith 73-71, and Rust led by double digits the final 13:54 in an 82-68 victory against Tougaloo, which upset XULA in double overtime Thursday in a game that did not count in the GCAC standings.

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