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Gold Nuggets feeling OK after beating Southern Nazarene
March 15, 2012

Box score

     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, finished 24-10.
     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.


 

 
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 teams in basketball, cross country and tennis and women's teams in basketball, cross country, tennis and volleyball.

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