Gold Nuggets feeling OK after beating Southern Nazarene
March 15, 2012
FRANKFORT, Ky. — For the second year in a row,
the Xavier University of Louisiana women's basketball team ended a losing
streak in the NAIA Division I National Championship.
The Gold Nuggets got 16 points from SiMon Franklin and
defeated Southern Nazarene 74-67 Thursday to earn their first victory at
nationals in eight attempts against an Oklahoma opponent.
Xavier (26-8), ranked 18th and winner of eight in a row,
will play second-ranked
Union (Tenn.) in the second round at 8:45 p.m. Friday. Southern Nazarene, in
its final NAIA season before beginning a transition to NCAA Division II,
A year ago Xavier ended a five-game first-round losing
streak by defeating Lee (Tenn.), then was eliminated in the next round.
The Gold Nuggets trailed Southern Nazarene 26-16 after 10 minutes and
39-35 at halftime but took the lead for good, 42-41, on Keldra Hall's basket
with 16:03 remaining. Xavier led 58-49 with 8:18 remaining after freshman
Jessica Savannah's second consecutive basket.
The Crimson Storm twice cut the Nuggets' lead to one
point in the final six minutes, but the Nuggets survived. Franklin, a junior guard and the MVP of the
Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament two weeks ago, converted a frontcourt steal into
a layup to give Xavier a 72-67 lead with 29 seconds remaining. Brandi Young
made two free throws with 22 seconds remaining for the Nuggets' final points.
Young scored 11 points, and Hall and Jasmine
Grant had nine apiece. Grant's 3-pointer with 12:53 remaining was the 200th
of her career. Her final 3-pointer, which followed Carmen Holcombe's
offensive rebound, gave the Nuggets a 69-63 lead at 2:19.
Southern Nazarene missed a third opportunity to cut
the lead to one when Ashley Mantooth scored a basket and Franklin fouled her.
But Mantooth missed the free throw with 1:22 remaining — leaving Xavier
with a 69-67 advantage — and Southern Nazarene didn't score again.
In the final minute the Crimson Storm missed a pair of 3-pointers and
committed three turnovers.
"Southern Nazarene shot lights-out early," XU coach
Bo Browder said. "I guarantee you the first 12 or 15 minutes were the best
basketball they've played all season. They were making contested shots.
But we withstood that early punch and came back."
Southern Nazarene had five double-figure scorers,
led by Mantooth with 16 points and Logan Martin and Oumoul Thiam with
14 apiece. The Crimson Storm outshot the Nuggets 43.9 to 39.1 percent from
the floor and outrebounded them 47-31. But Xavier offset that with a
season-high-tying eight 3-pointers, a season-best plus-14 turnover margin and
31 points from its bench.
"I told our bench before the game if they played well,
we'd win," Browder said. "I thought our starters and their
starters were an even match, but our bench made the difference."
In addition to Hall, reserves Danielle Kennebrew
and Dalila Robinson provided a spark with eight points apiece.
Kennebrew, who entered the game 5-for-37 in her career from 3-point range, and Robinson each made
a pair of treys. Robinson made hers on consecutive possessions midway through
the first half and produced her most points in nearly eight weeks.
Kennebrew scored her second-most points of the season.
Union (32-2) advanced with a 63-50 victory against Lindsey
Wilson in the game immediately preceding Xavier-Southern Nazarene.
"Great program, great talent, great coaching, great tradition,"
Browder said of Union. "Southern Nazarene had a bigger team than we did,
and Union's a little bigger than Southern Nazarene. So we'll have another difficult
challenge to deal with."
There will be another streak to overcome, too.
The Nuggets are 0-6 in the second round at nationals.
NOTES: The victory was Xavier's first against
Southern Nazarene, which beat the Nuggets twice in the regular season during Browder's
first two years as head coach (1998-99 and 1999-2000) . . . The Nuggets' seven
straight losses at nationals
against Oklahoma teams were by an average of 20.9 points . . .
Grant is the third Gold Nugget
to make 200 career 3-pointers. Jarryn Cleaves (2003-08) made 283, and
Courtney Simon (1992-96) made 204 . . . It's the first time since 1998,
when Browder was an XU assistant, that the Nuggets won first-round games at
nationals in consecutive years . . . The Nuggets scored their most points
at nationals since a 77-52 first-round victory against
LeTourneau in 1997.