Xavier trailed Tougaloo by 19 points before Lucas Martin-Julien and friends came to the rescue in the teams’ Gulf Coast Athletic Conference first-round tournament game Friday at Dillard.
Martin-Julien came off the bench and scored 20 points, including the winning free throws with 4.9 seconds left in double overtime, as the Rush won 94-92.
“He has been out injured since the first Tougaloo game (Jan. 18); he has had just one practice,” Xavier coach Dannton Jackson said. “He played well for us, hit some big shots and made some big free throws.”
The win sends No. 4 seed Xavier (20-11) to Saturday’s semifinals at its Convocation Center against top-seeded Talladega (22-4), which is ranked No. 3 in the NAIA. Talladega had a first-round bye.
The Rush is 0-2 against Talladega, including a 62-58 loss in overtime at Xavier on Jan. 25. Talladega also beat the Rush at Xavier to win last year’s tournament title.
“They are a tough team with a good point guard (Jordan Washington, an All-GCAC first-team pick),” Jackson said. “We just have to hydrate and rest and be ready for them.”
Tougaloo center Andravious Smith’s free throw tied the score at 92 with 14.9 seconds remaining in the second overtime. Martin-Julien drove left down the lane, was fouled and made both free throws.
Tougaloo guard De’Andre Scott traveled with 0.4 seconds showing, sealing the victory.
Xavier trailed 33-14 in the first half and 51-34 two minutes into the second half. But from the 15-minute mark, a lineup of reserves Martin-Julien, guard Leland Alexander, point guard Gary Smith, power forward Chris Ward and starting center Elex Carter went on a 10-0 run that brought the Rush within 55-51, providing renewed hope.
DILLARD 81, SUNO 58: Jesse Ward sank a long 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer that increased the Bleu Devils’ lead to 30-26, then was fouled flagrantly early in the second half, starting Dillard on its way to a rout.
Ward and Dennis Hightower each sank two free throws, and when Dillard (19-10) got the ball back, Dennis Reed scored a basket in the lane. All-GCAC forward Demetric Austin had a game-high 27 points.
“That absolutely was a big moment in the game,” Dillard coach Mike Newell said. “We were kind of flat in the first half, but we got going after that.”
The Bleu Devils, seeded second, will play third-seeded Philander Smith in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Saturday.
XAVIER 71, DILLARD 57: The third-seeded Gold Nuggets (20-11) took control with a 10-point second-quarter lead and had big 3-pointers in turning back Bleu Devils (9-17) runs.
Trana Hopkins scored 16 points and Whitney Gathright had 15 as Xavier advanced to the semifinals against No. 2 seed Edward Waters. The loss was Dillard’s sixth in a row.
“This was the best defense we played against them this season,” Xavier coach Bo Browder said. “Offensively, we played well. We’re coming back from some injuries and starting to come together.”
SUNO 72, PHILANDER SMITH 52: All-GCAC guard Rayvin Miller had 15 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and four steals, and four Knights scored in double figures led by center Jophiea Irwin, with 16.
Playing on its home court, fifth-seeded SUNO (12-12) shot 57.6 percent in taking a 45-29 halftime lead. The Knights had lost both times in overtime this season to the Panthers, seeded fifth.
SUNO will play top-seeded Talladega (22-4) in the first game of Saturday’s semifinals at Xavier.