By Ed Cassiere, Associate Athletics Director for Strategic Communications
ALLADEGA, Ala. — Makye Richard made the go-ahead free throws with 39 seconds remaining, then blocked a shot on the final Philander Smith possession to give Xavier University of Louisiana a 57-55 men’s basketball victory Wednesday.
XULA (6-1, 3-0) returned home that evening with three victories in three days in Gulf Coast Athletic Conference group play. XULA will play host to the second half of the GCAC league schedule Feb. 1-4.
XULA shot 29.2 percent from the floor — its lowest mark during Alfred Williams‘s five seasons as head coach — but made a season-high-tying 23 free throws and won the turnover battle for the sixth time in seven games, committing 18 and gaining 24.
Rayshawn Mart scored 12 points, a season low, and Richard had 11 for XULA. They were a combined 6-of-23 from the floor with 11 turnovers but 10-of-11 from the line. Freshman reserve Jeremy Lindsey scored a season-best nine points, including 4-of-4 free throws.
“It was a traditional Xavier-Philander Smith matchup,” XULA head coach Alfred Williams said. “Ugly, to say the least. (Phildner Smith) got under our skin, had us rushing our shots and influencing our decision making. But we just kept on fighting.”
Dontrell Johnson’s basket with 1:03 remaining gave the Panthers (5-7, 0-2) their final lead at 55-54. XULA took the lead for good on the next possession when Richard made 2-of-2 free throws, then got the ball back with 15 seconds remaining when Kenneth Perkins committed an offensive foul.
TJ Jones made 1-of-2 free throws for the final point, and the game ended when Richard blocked Dejalin Austin’s shot on the ensuing possession.
Austin, who entered with a team-leading 15 points per game, scored a season-low three points and was 0-of-7 from the floor.
XULA’s reserves produced 21 points, including 8-of-8 free throws from that group and a game-high four assists by Cameron Dumas.
“Our bench stepped up huge,” Williams said. “Dumas, Lindsey and Jordan Temple picked up the pressure defensively and helped us get the lead back in the second half. They had Philander Smith scrambling.”
Johnson’s 3-pointer with 12:48 remaining gave the Panthers their largest lead, 36-31. But XULA answered with a 16-4 run that included 3-pointers by Richard, Cory Wells and Temple.
An 11-3 run gave the Panthers their final lead.
Perkins had 21 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks and became the first individual opponent to reach 20 points in a XULA game this season. But Perkins was one of three Panthers with five turnovers apiece.
The victory was the 11th in 12 games dating to last season for XULA, the defending GCAC regular-season and tournament champion. XULA has won 29 of its last 33 games in stretch of success that started with a road victory at NCAA Division II Columbus State on Nov. 16, 2019.