SUNO holds on to beat Rush by 1 in GCAC semifinals
March 2, 2012
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Freshman guard Kevin Dukes
scored a career-high 27 points Friday to lead SUNO to a 66-65 men's basketball
victory against Xavier University of Louisiana in the semifinals of the Gulf
Coast Athletic Conference Tournament.
The third-seeded Knights (16-13) advanced to the
championship game for the first time since 2004. They'll play defending
champion and top-seeded Tougaloo, a 94-88 winner against fourth-seeded
Philander Smith in Friday's other semifinal.
Xavier (23-8) — seeded second, ranked 18th
nationally and the regular-season co-champion with Tougaloo — will await
an at-large berth to the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I National Championship
at Kansas City, Mo. Bids will be announced Wednesday, and the tournament will
begin March 14. Xavier qualified for nationals five of the past seasons,
Clyde Moore and Devin White scored 10 points apiece
for SUNO, which led 30-27 at halftime.
Chris Iles and Jamaan Kenner scored 11 points each for
Xavier, and Kevin Miller scored 10. Denzell Erves scored nine points and
grabbed 11 rebounds.
Except for a tie at 36 which lasted less than half a
minute, SUNO led for the final 28:16. Dukes' 3-pointer with 14:17 remaining put
the Knights ahead to stay, 39-36.
Xavier faced its largest deficit of the game, 54-43,
after Dukes scored with 7:22
remaining but twice closed to within a point in the final 2:40. The Gold Rush
missed a chance to take the lead when Cordell Hadnot's shot hit the side of the
backboard with 1:15 remaining. Moore grabbed the rebound for SUNO and drove
the length of the court for a 3-point play and a 63-59 advantage at 1:11.
With the Rush trailing 66-63, Wanto Joseph missed on a
3-pointer with two seconds remaining. SUNO controlled the rebound out-of-bounds
with half a second remaining, and Xavier scored the final points at the buzzer
after Gil Mathieu stole the inbounds pass under the Rush basket.
Xavier outshot SUNO 43.8 to 42.6 percent from the floor.
Both teams grabbed 32 rebounds and committed 13 turnovers. SUNO made 22-of-34
free throws, including 6-of-7 in the final 2:23. Xavier was 20-of-26 from
the line, including 13-of-14 in the final 14 minutes.
SUNO beat Xavier for the second time in three tries
this season. The Knights' earlier victory was 67-64 in overtime at The Barn
on Jan. 10. That game knocked Xavier out of first place in the GCAC, but
SUNO helped Xavier this past weekend when it defeated Tougaloo to force the
Bulldogs to share the regular-season title with the Rush.
Returning to the GCAC title game for the first time
since 1996 will be SUNO coach Dale Valdery, an XU alum who was 2-2 in the
championship round in his first six seasons as coach of the Gold Rush.
This is Valdery's fourth season at SUNO, where he has led the Knights to their first winning season since