NEW ORLEANS (GCAConf.com) – All three GCAC games will have a big impact on seeding at the upcoming 2016 GCAC Basketball Championships, to be held in New Orleans from March 4-6. Tougaloo takes hits high-scoring attack to The Castle as they try to pick up a needed road win and Xavier hopes to stay in the top-four of the GCAC by knocking off Edward Waters. The Game of the Week features Dillard hosting Philander Smith in the biggest matchup between the two schools in the brief history of their rivalry.
Saturday, February 20
Tougaloo (11-10, 3-6 GCAC) at Southern University at New Orleans (7-14, 2-8) (Tip-off 5:00 PM CT): Whenever Tougaloo plays you can count on a busy scoreboard operator. The Bulldogs average 87 points per game and have scored 90 or more 10 times this season. After losing three in a row, Tougaloo has won two straight, including a 96-79 win over Edward Waters earlier this week. This is the last road game of the regular season for the Bulldogs, where they are 4-9 this season. SUNO snapped a six-game losing streak with a rare road win at Xavier on Monday. The Knights still have a chance to avoid a second consecutive last place finish in the GCAC standings. It has been a tumultuous season for SUNO as they are the only team in the conference with a losing record at home and on the road. Tougaloo won the first meeting between the two, 80-72.
Players to watch: Quintarius Porter: Porter has been the worth the price of admission all season long, but last week was special for the senior guard. He was named both GCAC and NAIA Player of the Week after scoring 84 points in two games, including a conference-record 51 against Rust College. His roll has continued this week with 29 points against Edward Waters.
Dominique Suggs, SUNO: SUNO has been looking for consistent scoring all season long. Hopefully Dominique Suggs is coming on at the right time. Suggs had a career-high 27 points (7-9 on three-pointers) in the upset of Xavier. He’ll get his opportunities against Tougaloo; the question will be if he can take advantage.
Xavier (17-10, 4-5) at Edward Waters (11-14, 3-6) (Tip-off 5:00 PM CT): It’s been a disappointing season for the Gold Rush, who are in danger of finishing with a losing conference record for the first time under coach Dannton Jackson. Xavier still seems like a solid bet to return to the NAIA tournament, but a GCAC tournament championship would make that a lock. To get into better position, the Rush will have to do better on the road where their last three games are being played. Xavier is 3-6 away from home this season. Edward Waters has struggled to find consistency all season. The Tigers don’t have a win streak longer than three games or a losing streak longer than four games. They haven’t been at .500 since they were 6-6 on Dec. 4, 2015. EWC is 5-2 at home this season. Xavier beat Edward Waters 71-52 in their first meeting.
Players to watch: Morris Wright, Xavier: Wright, one of the leading contenders for GCAC Player of the Year, has reached double figures in scoring in all 27 games played this season. He sits 58 points away from 1,500 in his career, which at his current pace could happen in the season finale against Dillard.
Charles-Eddie Smith, Edward Waters: Points are always at a premium when you play Xavier, and Smith will have to put up numbers against the Gold Rush. In his last four games Smith is averaging 19.8 points per game and shooting 44 percent from the floor.
GCAC Game of the Week
Philander Smith (13-13, 6-4) at Dillard (16-9, 6-3) (Tip-off 5:00 PM CT): Also known as “The Battle of @HipHopPrez”(current Dillard President Walter Kimbrough previously held the same position at Philander Smith), the relatively new rivalry between the Bleu Devils and the Panthers has been taken up a notch this season. Philander Smith entered the season looking for its fourth consecutive bid to the NAIA tournament. The Panthers will probably have to win the GCAC tournament to make it a fourth time, but a win over Dillard could help them position themselves for a second seed in the tourney and a possible late-season run. Dillard still has slim hopes of a conference co-championship. If the Bleu Devils can win out and Talladega drops its last two, Dillard would have completed one of the most amazing turnarounds in GCAC history. With 16 wins, Dillard already has surpassed its total for the previous five seasons. One of those wins came on the road at PSC back on Jan. 4 (87-80).
Players to watch: Chris Ward, Philander Smith: Ward will have to play big for the Panthers against the Dillard front line. The 6-6 forward is averaging 12.6 points and 6 rebounds this season, but his biggest task will be keeping the Bleu Devils off the glass. He posted 18 points and 8 rebounds in the first meeting between these schools.
Dennis Hightower, Dillard: Hightower broke out of a four-game slump with 27 points against Loyola (La.). Before going 8-for-15 against the Wolfpack, he had made only 10 of his previous 37 shot attempts. Philander Smith features some of the best offensive guards in the GCAC. Hightower will have to perform on both ends of the court for Dillard to get the win.