Xavier Athletics



Gold Rush gains ground in NAIA coaches poll

February 23, 2009

     NEW ORLEANS — Dannton Jackson says it's gratifying that his Xavier University of Louisiana men's basketball team is gaining support in the NAIA Division I coaches poll this late in the season. The Gold Rush, which received just one point in five of the previous six polls, received 29 points in balloting announced Monday and jumped near the front of the group of "others receiving votes" — a place Xavier has been hanging out all season.
     Xavier was 20 points from the top 25 and tied for 28th place with Biola. The previous week Xavier was tied for 37th place.
     But, Jackson cautions, it's just a snapshot in time. Two more regular-season games remain, then the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament. The road to Kansas City, Mo., and the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I National Championship is still long — and still bumpy.
     "It's good to be where we are," said Jackson, whose team is 19-9 and, thanks to a three-game winning streak, in sole possession of second place in the GCAC at 11-5. "But we have much more we can accomplish. It starts Thursday night at The Barn against Spring Hill, and that's where all our focus must be — on the next game."
     It'll be Senior Night on Thursday — the Gold
2008-09 GCAC Men's Basketball Standings
  GCAC Games     All Games
  W L Pct W L Pct
x-Tougaloo 13 3 .813 20 8 .714
Xavier 11 5 .688 19 9 .679
Loyola 10 6 .625 17 10 .630
LSU-Shreveport 10 6 .625 17 11 .607
Spring Hill 9 7 .563 15 10 .600
Belhaven 8 8 .500 16 11 .593
Dillard 7 9 .438 10 16 .385
Mobile 6 10 .375 14 13 .519
William Carey 3 13 .188 8 18 .308
SUNO 3 13 .188 3 22 .120
x — clinched No. 1 seed for the GCAC Tournament and the first of two GCAC automatic bids to the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I National Championship at Kansas City, Mo.

Thursday's Games
Spring Hill at Xavier, 7:30 p.m.
SUNO at Loyola, 7:30 p.m.
Dillard at William Carey, 7:30 p.m.
LSU-Shreveport at Belhaven, 7:30 p.m.
Mobile at Tougaloo, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday's Games
Xavier at Dillard (UNO Lakefront Arena), 7 p.m.
SUNO at LSU-Shreveport, 7 p.m.
William Carey at Loyola, 7 p.m.
Spring Hill at Mobile, 7 p.m.
Belhaven at Tougaloo, 7 p.m.
Rush and Badgers will tip off at 7:30 — and guard Shaun Dumas and forward Kelechi Okoroha, who have combined for nearly 2,400 career points, will be honored in a pregame ceremony. But Jackson hopes that distraction doesn't linger, and the desire to stop a hot Spring Hill team does.
     "Spring Hill has great guards, and they handled us pretty well last time," Jackson said. "Outside of Tougaloo, there isn't a team in the conference that's been playing better than Spring Hill has lately."
     The Badgers, although in fifth place in the GCAC and two games behind Xavier, have won seven of their past eight. They started that run with a 65-54 thumping of the Rush on Jan. 31 at Spring Hill. Guard Jeremy Price scored a season-high 29 points for the Badgers, including a career-high six 3-pointers.
     "We can't use our tradition or our resumé to win games," said Jackson, who seeks a school-record fifth consecutive NAIA tournament berth and his sixth 20-win season in as many years as the Gold Rush's head coach. "We have to focus on every possession, play intelligently and be willing to outwork opponents on defense and rebounding. It's a straightforward plan, but what separates good teams from others is the ability to consistently execute that plan."
     Defense has been a big part of Xavier's success this season. The Rush allows 61 points per game to rank fifth in NAIA Division I, and Xavier is 8-0 in conference when allowing less than 60 points.
     Dumas, meanwhile, has become a much busier shooter after three seasons as a distributor to scorers such as Timothy Green, Jason Leonard, Mark Stewart and Alfred Williams. Dumas' 14.7 scoring average this season is the highest of his career, and he'll enter Thursday's game with a career-best streak of 10 straight games scoring in double figures — and a 17.8 average during that time. Dumas also ranks second in the nation with 3.3 steals per game, and he's in position to become the third Gold Rush player in 27 seasons to lead the team in scoring, assists and steals in the same season.
     "We can't ask for much more than we have out of Shaun," Jackson said. "There are others in our league who may have better stats, but I can't think of a better choice than Shaun for conference player of the year."
     Okoroha, who needs 16 points to reach 1,000 for his three-year career, averaged 15.8 points the past 10 games to raise his season average to a career-best 11.4.
     Dumas and Okoroha are the only Xavier players with double-figure scoring averages, but they didn't bring the Rush to the brink of 20 wins by themselves. Seven of the other 10 active players are averaging from 3.3 to 8.1 points. Newcomers Landon Bussie and Cordell Hadnot have combined to average 7.3 points and 7.4 rebounds in the absence of center Dannie Woods, who's injured and out for the season. Ryan DeRousselle banked in a 25-footer at the buzzer to beat Belhaven at The Barn on Feb. 9. Five days later, Olumide Olafioye scored 21 points to share scoring honors with Dumas and Okoroha and lead a successful second-half home comeback against SUNO. Freshman Jamaan Kenner scored a career-high seven points in each of the past two games, road victories against William Carey and Mobile.
     The GCAC receives two automatic berths to the NAIA tournament, and Tougaloo secured the first by beating Dillard on Saturday to clinch the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament. The other automatic berth will go to the GCAC Tournament champion — or to the runner-up if Tougaloo wins the tourney. Xavier, an 80-76 loser to LSU-Shreveport in last year's GCAC final, earned the conference's second automatic berth in 2008.
     This season of NAIA Division I men's basketball has been full of plot twists. Six teams have been No. 1, and six more reached the top 25 for the first time in at least nine seasons. California Baptist, which beat Xavier 77-69 in the opening round at Kansas City in 2008, earned just one point in this week's poll after being a preseason No. 5 and climbing to the No. 1 in December.
     Xavier, winner of five of its past six and 14-1 at home this season, hopes its recent momentum will keep it from twisting in the wind when the 32-team field for the national tournament is announced March 11.
     Xavier will close the regular season Saturday with a 7 p.m. game against GCAC, city and HBCU rival Dillard in the Bleu Devil Classic at the University of New Orleans' Lakefront Arena. Xavier has won seven straight and 10 of 11 against the Dillard.
     The Rush has a clinched a first-round bye and a home quarterfinal game in the GCAC Tournament. That game will tip off at 7 p.m. March 5 against a still-to-be-determined opponent.
     "We just have to keep winning," Jackson said. "Keep finding ways to win. We have to handle this one game at a time. We control our destiny."


Gulf Coast Athletic Conference
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics

The Xavier Gold Rush and Gold Nuggets compete in Division I of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) as a member of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC). Xavier fields men's and women's teams in basketball, cross country and tennis.

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Xavier University of Louisiana
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New Orleans, LA 70125
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