Starting Friday, Xavier men’s basketball has no plans to be a gracious host — at least not on the Convocation Center court.
The Gold Rush enter this week’s Gulf South Athletic Conference basketball tournament with a No. 2 seed. They will face No. 7 seed Dillard at 7 p.m. Friday, the final matchup of a four-game slate that starts at noon.
If Xavier coach Dannton Jackson receives the type of effort he desires, the Gold Rush will continue their streak as the GCAC’s top defensive team, limiting opponents to a conference-low 63.2 points per game.
“When we defend well, we play well,” Jackson said.
Xavier’s defensive success is tied to help defense, which forces opposing players to beat not only the Xavier player in front of them, but several other defenders as well. From the perimeter to the post, Xavier also attempts to limit touches — anything to make for a daunting 40 minutes on the court.
On Feb. 2, Xavier earned a 56-45 win at Edward Waters, a victory that showcased what the Gold Rush could accomplish with a solid defense.
“We were away, which was the funny thing,” said junior guard Morris Wright, a product of Zachary High and Baton Rouge Community College. “But we seemed to figure it out there. We were just helping our brothers out.”
The home crowd, though, didn’t enjoy Xavier’s antics.
“They were silent,” Wright added. “I remember loving the sound of that.”
Dillard (5-24, 3-11) ranks last in the conference in team scoring (63.1). Xavier is sixth out of eight teams (69.3).
Houma native Houston Chatman leads Dillard, averaging 11.9 points and 3.6 assists.
On Feb. 28, Xavier ended the regular season with a 67-41 conference win against Dillard completing a sweep of the home-and-away series against its local rival.
During Jackson’s 12 seasons as Xavier’s coach, he has beat Dillard 22 times in 25 meetings.
Friday’s action starts at noon with fourth-seeded Philander Smith against fifth-seeded Edward Waters, followed by third-seeded Tougaloo against against sixth-seeded Voorhees.
At 5 p.m., eighth-seeded Southern University at New Orleans will try to upset top-seeded Talladega. Xavier’s game against Dillard follows.
The GCAC tournament semifinals are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. The championship game is at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Led by high-flying guard Brandon Peters (19.1 ppg), Talladega posted a 13-1 conference record en route to its first regular season title since re-joining the league in 2011. The Tornadoes are the defending GCAC tournament champions and ranked No. 1 in the latest NAIA Division I Coaches’ Top 25 poll.
The winner earns the GCAC’s automatic bid to the NAIA Division I men’s basketball tournament. Last season, the conference sent three teams to the national tournament: Talladega (automatic), Xavier (at-large) and Philander Smith (at-large).