When Xavier first-team all-conference guard Morris Wright picked up his fourth foul midway of the second half against Dillard on Saturday, things didn’t look positive for the Gold Rush.
However, backup point guard Gary Smith had Wright’s and Xavier’s back.
Smith hit a key basket and ran the offense, and Xavier took the lead with Wright out on its way to a 69-61 Crosstown Classic victory at the Convocation Center.
“I’m the point guard when he goes out, anyway,” said Smith, who also often is paired with Wright in the backcourt. “I’m glad I was able to do some things to help us get this win, but my teammates played well during that stretch, too.”
The victory kept Xavier (17-8, 4-4) in fourth place in the seven-team Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. Dillard (14-8, 5-2), ranked No. 21 in the NAIA, lost for the sixth consecutive time in the series and 14th in 15 games.
In the women’s game, Dillard (9-11, 4-3) beat Xavier 57-52. Xavier is 15-9, 4-4.
In the men’s game, the score was tied at 45 when Dillard’s Houston Chatman made a free throw after Wright was assessed a charging foul at the 10:38 mark. Then, with Xavier leading 51-49, Smith drove for a basket.
Wright returned with six minutes left. Playing off the ball, Smith answered a 3-pointer by Dillard’s Montrey Thomas with one from the right corner, giving the Gold Rush a 58-52 lead.
Wright, who had a game-high 20 points, then finished off the Bleu Devils. He sank a 3-pointer with 2:08 for a 64-57 lead and another with one minute left that made it 67-59.
Dillard outrebounded Xavier 41-31, getting 20 offensive rebounds. However, the Devils shot just 23-of-67 (34.3 percent), including 5-of-23 on 3-point tries.
“We couldn’t make shots,” Dillard coach Mike Newell said. “So they packed the lane, and we couldn’t score inside. When you outrebound a team like we did (Saturday), you should win.”
Xavier shot 50 percent, including 64 percent (16-of-25) in the second half when it outscored Dillard 41-29.
In the women’s game, Dillard trailed 37-31 at 2:59 of the third quarter. However, the Bleu Devils went on a 9-0 scoring run, taking a 40-37 lead on a 3-pointer by Shaelynn Moore with 49 seconds left in the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Xavier twice came to one point of the lead, but Dillard never relinquished it. After point guard Whitney Gathright made a 3-pointer with 3:14 left, bringing Xavier to 48-45, Dillard sank 10 consecutive free throws the rest of the way to seal its second win in the past three meetings vs. the Gold Nuggets, who had won 13 of the past 14 in the series.
“Our defense did it for us,” Dillard coach Norbert Rome said. “The players bought in all the way with the game plan and stuck to it.”
Xavier coach Bo Browder said the Devils did a good job attacking the lane.
“They shot 31 free throws and made 22, and we were 9-of-12,” Browder said. “We held them to 57 points, but we didn’t do a good job offensively.”