Gold Nuggets Reach Championship Game Again
NEW ORLEANS (XULAGold.com) — Whitney Gathright scored 19 points Saturday and sparked a first-quarter run that carried Xavier University of Louisiana to a 73-55 women's basketball victory against Edward Waters in the semifinals of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament at XU's Convocation Center.
The Gold Nuggets (21-11), seeded third, will play top-seeded Talladega for the championship at 2 p.m. Sunday at Xavier.
Talladega, ranked 15th in NAIA Division I, beat fifth-seeded SUNO 73-65 in the other semifinal.
Gathright scored seven points and had an assist to help Xavier take a 14-2 lead through four minutes. The Gold Nuggets led by double digits thereafter and held their largest lead, 52-25, when Gathright made two free throws at 5:47 of the third quarter.
Trana Hopkins scored 15 points for Xavier, and Alesha Smith scored 10.
Jermisha Collins scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Edward Waters (21-9), the No. 2 seed, and Valerie Hill scored 10.
Xavier outshot Edward Waters 44.6 to 36.7 percent from the floor and made 19-of-21 free throws to the Lady Tigers' 7-of-11.
Xavier reached the GCAC's tourney final for the sixth time in seven years and the 12th time in Bo Browder's 17 seasons as head coach. The title-game matchup with Talladega will be their third in five years; the Gold Nuggets defeated the Lady Tornadoes in 2012 and 2014.
Gold Rush to Face Crosstown Rival for Men's Title
The Dillard Bleu Devils had been dormant prior to the arrival of new coach Mike Newell this season. Newell helped to orchestrate the biggest single-season turnaround in the nation this year as Dillard has improved from 5-25 last season to 20-10 this year (+15).
The Bleu Devils earned their first 20-win season since 2003-04. Dillard has been sparked by GCAC Newcomer of the Year Demetric Austin, who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. Austin was a First Team All-GCAC selection as well. Teammate Dennis Hightower, a member of the All-GCAC Second Team, sits in the top ten nationally in steals (67), steals per game (2.2), assists (169), and assist average (5.6). As a team the Bleu Devils are the nation's best offensive rebounding unit at better than 16.4 boards per game. They also rank in the top ten in assists, total rebounds, rebounding margin, and assists. The Bleu Devils have won five of their last six games. Xavier has been one of the most consistent programs in the country. The Gold Rush have won 20 games or more in 11 of the past 13 seasons under Dannton Jackson, the program's all-time leader in wins (294).
Only one Louisiana men's basketball coach has more 20-win seasons, Fred Hobdy. However, this season has been a challenge for the Rush.
Their longest win streak this season is just five games and they've gone just 6-7 away from the Convocation Center. Earlier this season their streak of 55 consecutive appearances in the Top 25 was broken. But Xavier finds itself in position to win its first GCAC tournament championship under Jackson and their first since the 1995-96 season.
A win today would extend the Gold Rush's school record for consecutive NAIA tournament appearances to six. To do that, Xavier will rely on senior guard Morris Wright. Wright, a member of the All-GCAC First Team and the GCAC All-Defensive team, averaged just under 19 points and 2 steals per game. He has scored nearly 600 points this season and 1,524 in school history, ranking fifth in school history.
The Gold Rush have also gotten big contributions from RJ Daniels and Lucas Julien-Martin who have each posted career-highs in the tournament.