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Nuggets lose 67-63 in NAIA opener despite 2nd-half rally
March 14, 2013

Box score

     FRANKFORT, Ky. — Faulkner withstood a second-half rally from Xavier University of Louisiana and earned a 67-63 women's basketball victory Thursday in the opening round of the NAIA Division I National Championship.
     The victory advanced the Lady Eagles (26-6) to a 12:30 p.m. EDT Friday matchup against Westminster (Utah). The Gold Nuggets (24-6), a first-round winner at nationals in 2011 and 2012, lost their second in a row and failed to win in the postseason for the first time since 2000. They had closed the regular season with 12 consecutive victories.
     All-America center Brittney Carter led Faulkner with her 75th career double-double, 26 points and 14 rebounds. Carter scored 18 second-half points, and her 3-point play with 1:34 remaining gave Faulkner a 66-60 lead after Xavier's SiMon Franklin cut the margin to 63-60 with a basket at 1:59. That was the fifth time in the final eight minutes that the Gold Nuggets were within three points after trailing by 19, but they never got closer in the second half.
     "We just played better in the second half. We played hard and forced some turnovers," XU coach Bo Browder said. "But we shot 32 percent (from the floor), 22 percent in the first half. You can't win at this level shooting like that."
     Christina Hayes made three 3-pointers and scored 19 points for Faulkner, which won in its first appearance at nationals. This is the third season of Faulkner's women's basketball program.
     Franklin scored 17 points, Paige Gauthier 13 and Danielle Tucker 10 for Xavier.
     Tucker's basket at 11:24 of the first half gave Xavier its final lead, 13-12. Faulkner outscored Xavier 22-8 to take a 34-21 halftime lead, then increased its advantage to 44-25 on a Hayes 3-pointer with 16:06 remaining.
     Of the five three-point deficits the Gold Nuggets faced in the final eight minutes, the first two resulted in defensive stops — but Xavier followed those with a missed 3-pointer and a turnover. Faulkner scored on ensuing possessions the other three times.
     "If we had played hard the entire 40 minutes like we did in the second half, we would've been all right," Browder said. "But Faulkner did some nice things, too, so give them credit. Their big girl (Carter) was a force inside again, and we let Hayes go off in the first half."
     Faulkner outshot Xavier 44.9 to 32.3 percent from the floor, but the Gold Nuggets had a 38-37 rebound advantage — a significant improvement after being outrebounded by a season-worst 10 in the teams' other meeting this season, a 66-64 Faulkner victory in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Montgomery, Ala., on Dec. 29. Xavier committed 20 turnovers and gained 24 and was plus-six in turnover margin in the second half.
     It was the third time in two days that a No. 6 seed defeated a No. 3 seed. Xavier was ranked 12th and Faulkner 21st in the final coaches poll before the tournament. A postseason top 25 will be announced March 26.
     Westminster, which defeated the Gold Nuggets in Xavier's homecoming game Nov. 17, defeated St. Catharine (Ky.) 69-55 in the first round Thursday. Eight first-round games were played Wednesday.
     The trip to nationals was the Gold Nuggets' 17th in 19th seasons, and it was the 20th time in 21 seasons that they reached 20 victories. Franklin, a guard and the team's only senior, closed her XU basketball career with 1,136 points and 220 steals. She is expected to compete for the women's track team later this month. Gauthier and Tucker, Xavier's other double-figure scorers Thursday, are juniors.
     "I thought it was a very successful year after losing six seniors from last year," Browder said. "But it was a very challenging year also — probably one of the most challenging I've had. We had a lot of newcomers this year and had to work hard to bring everyone together as a team."


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

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