Nuggets outlast Tougaloo, reach another GCAC title game
March 2, 2012
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jasmine Grant, one of five
double-figure scorers for NAIA No. 20 Xavier University of Louisiana, had 18
points Friday in a 78-67 women's basketball victory against Tougaloo in the
semifinals of the Gulf Coast Athletic Tournament.
The Gold Nuggets (24-8) won their sixth in a row and
advanced to Saturday's noon EST championship game against second-seeded
Talladega, a 63-43 winner — aided by a 21-1 opening run —
against sixth-seeded Edward Waters in the other Friday semifinal. It's the
sixth time in seven seasons the XU women are in the final.
Keldra Hall scored 14 points, Carmen Holcombe 13,
SiMon Franklin 11 and Brandi Young 10 for Xavier, the tournament's top seed.
Portia Craft scored 18 points, Victoria Jones 16 and
Kierra Addison 14 for fifth-seeded Tougaloo (15-14), which was eliminated by
Xavier for the fourth consecutive year. The Nuggets beat the Lady Bulldogs
71-44 in the 2011 final.
Tougaloo's Kierra Addison scored a 3-point play on
the game's opening possession, but her team never led again after Xavier
responded with a 13-1 run. Tougaloo rallied for three ties in the final six
minutes of the first half, but Young scored the final five points, including
a 3-pointer at the buzzer, to give Xavier a 36-31 advantage.
Xavier twice led by 18 in the second half — the
last time at 62-44 on Franklin's basket with 9:20 remaining — but didn't
clinch the victory until it outscored the Tougaloo 8-2 in the final 3:45.
"Tougaloo played strong," said Bo Browder, who reached
the championship game for the ninth time in 13 seasons as Xavier's coach. "So
we had to be strong too. We did a great job contesting every rebound and had a
great six- or- seven-minute stretch in the second half to give us some cushion."
Grant, who missed the final 26 games of 2010-11 because
of a knee injury, was 4-of-8 from 3-point range and grabbed a career-high seven
rebounds. She and Holcombe were one point from season highs. Hall didn't start
but was 6-of-7 from the floor, and Young and Franklin each had five assists,
with Franklin matching her career best.
Jones, the GCAC Player of the Year, grabbed 16
rebounds, eight offensive. But Xavier had a 48-36 rebound advantage, 27-16 in
the second half.
"I told our team before the game and I told them
throughout the game that it was all about rebounding," Browder said. "That's a
big reason why we'll be playing tomorrow."
Xavier outshot Tougaloo 42.6 to 34.5 percent from the
floor, and both teams made six 3-pointers. The Nuggets excelled at the line,
making 20-of-23 free throws to Tougaloo's 21-of-33. The Lady Bulldogs missed
nine second-half free throws.
NOTES: XU sophomore Angelica Alexander
scored a season-high six points . . . The Jones double-double was her seventh
against Xavier and her third in as many meetings this season, but she finished
her career with a 1-11 record against the Nuggets . . . Xavier scored its most
points in a GCAC semifinal since 2002.