Talladega College, ranked No. 24 in NAIA, started Gulf Coast Athletic Conference play with a 97-88 victory over No. 25 Dillard University (New Orleans) on Saturday night.
The second half developed into a chippy contest, with 18 fouls assessed against the Bleu Devils, while the Tornadoes committed 16 infractions. Each team committed a technical foul.
“This was definitely a heated game,” Talladega College head coach Chris Wright said. “In college basketball, every conference game means something, but this game meant a little something extra to us.
“Every conference in NAIA has a rater, and Dillard’s head coach, (Mike Newell), he’s a good coach and does a great job there, he’s our rater.
“All year, we felt like we got slighted a little bit in the ratings. They had three losses more than we did, and he put them higher in the polls than we were. That’s a month and a half of that going on, so we did have a little extra chip on our shoulder … This was a big win for us. It meant a lot.”
The Tornadoes led the entire second half after coming out of the intermission ahead 45-37.
Dillard guard Malik Amos, the GCAC Preseason Player of the Year, scored 23 of his 31 points in the first half and did the bulk of his damage from beyond the arc to help his team establish some short-lived leads.
“Amos is a heckuva player,” Wright said. “We let him loose a little bit too much in transition and didn’t do a good enough job pressing up on him, so he was able to really kind of keep them in the game.
“In the second half, I thought our guys did a better job of not letting him get easy touches and really trying to make their other guys beat us.”
Five to know
- Talladega College point guard Phil Winston had a hand in two of the Tornadoes’ most energizing offensive plays of the night -- an assist on an alley-oop dunk by forward Ray Doby late in the first half and a one-man possession early in the second half where he weaved his way down the court past multiple Bleu Devils for an effortless layup. He finished with 27 points and added five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
- Each team had three players foul out during the second-half war of attrition. The Tornadoes finished the game without Doby, Jon Warren and Ngor Barnaba, while forward Jeremiah August, Tyrelle McGhee and Elijah Pittman made early exits for the Bleu Devils.
- Xavian McKay (16 points), guard Shannon Sanford Jr. (14) and McGhee (11) joined Amos in double figures for Dillard.
- Guard Morris Dunnigan led Talladega College with 28 points, while guard Darryl Baker added 17 and Doby gave his team 15.
- Tornadoes forward R.J. Kelly was treated on the sideline after suffering a laceration under his right eyebrow. After receiving stitches and stopping the bleeding, he returned to action.
- Wright on his top performers of the night: “Phil, he did a heckuva job for us. He’s our floor general and he runs our team. I’ve been really proud of him. He’s a Division I transfer … I thought he did a great job of getting the ball to some of our guys who care score. I think we have six guys who are averaging double figures. Morris Dunnigan had a heckuva game. He’s a transfer from Houston. I thought Darryl Baker did a great job out of the post. We posted him up. He’s a big, strong guard and he made a lot of good plays out of the post tonight. It was great to see how we moved the ball, and I thought we were really unselfish.”
- Wright on areas where the team can improve: “No. 1, we had 20 turnovers tonight. That’s way too many. We’re averaging 15 a game, and for the talent that we have, that’s way too many. We’ve got to clean that up, really. Then, we’re up 12 and the game was done with 3 ½ minutes left, and we get a stupid technical that results in them getting six points. So it now goes from 12 to six, and it really changes the complexion of the game. We’ve got to be smarter than that, and I’ve got to be smarter to not play guys that are going to do dumb things in big minutes. So we’ll get that fixed and, hopefully, just be a little bit more solid.”
- Wright on the road ahead: “Our next four conference games are on the road, so our league definitely didn’t do us any favors when they made this conference schedule. We’ve got some tough games coming up, and to start off with a home game against one of the top teams in our league, this was a really big game. It sets us up nicely. We’re in New Orleans on Monday, so we’ll leave tomorrow at 10 a.m. and make the trek down there to try and go 2-0 in the league. It’s always a grind this time of year, for sure.”
- Talladega College (14-3, 1-0) will travel to face conference foe Southern University at New Orleans (3-9, 0-1) on Monday night at 7:30.
- Dillard (10-7, 0-1) will head to Jacksonville, Florida, to clash with GCAC opponent Edward Waters College (6-7, 1-1) on Monday night at 6:30.