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Late-night blues: Faulkner beats Rush 72-59 at nationals
March 14, 2013

Box score

     KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Juniors Cyrille Sandjon and Jake Mitchell scored 14 points each Thursday, and Faulkner rallied in the final 15 minutes for a 72-59 men's basketball victory against Xavier University of Louisiana in the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I National Championship.
     It was the last of 16 first-round games over two days. This one tipped off at approximately 11:04 p.m. — nearly 80 minutes after its scheduled 9:45 start — and concluded at approximately 12:53 a.m. Friday.
     The Eagles (29-5), ranked 18th in the most recent coaches poll but unseeded in this 32-team event, trailed 40-37 before taking the lead for good with a 15-4 run which covered five minutes. Maurice Whitely's basket — his only points of the second half — put Faulkner ahead to stay 41-40, and Sandjon's fast-break basket at 9:51 capped the run and made it 52-44.
     The Gold Rush (24-8), ranked 16th in the poll and seeded 15th in the tournament, still was within striking distance at 55-51 in the final six minutes. But Anthony Simmons — Xavier's three-time All-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference forward — fouled out on an offensive foul at 5:53, then Mitchell's 3-pointer at 5:38 and Jamarious Alderson's two free throws at 5:01 gave Faulkner a 60-51 advantage. The Eagles never led by less than seven points thereafter, even though they missed 5-of-12 free throws in the final three minutes.
     Alderson scored 11 points for Faulkner, which won its sixth in a row and qualified for nationals for the first time since reaching the 2007 semifinals.
     Seniors Wanto Joseph and Denzell Erves led Xavier. Joseph played the entire game and scored 16 points, and Denzell Erves had 14 points and 12 rebounds in the first Gold Rush double-double at nationals since Bruce Seals in the 1973 quarterfinals. But after Erves secured his NAIA Division I-leading 17th double-double of the season, he produced just two points and two rebounds in the final 15 minutes.
     Simmons, another senior, was called for his third and fourth fouls in the first 3 minutes of the second half and finished with seven points and two rebounds in a little more than 17 minutes. Simmons was 22 points from joining Joseph and Erves in Xavier's 1,000-point club for a career. Joseph and Erves, both four-year players, reached that milestone in the regular-season finale. Simmons played three seasons at XU.
     Joseph's basket at 15:47 of the first half gave Xavier its largest lead, 14-9. Di'mar Hill's fast-break basket at 11:56 gave the Eagles their first lead, 20-19, and there were three additional lead changes and two more ties before Faulkner's Birama Konate made the second of two free throws with one second remaining to tie the score at 30. Xavier's defense had the momentum by halftime after allowing just six points in the final 10 minutes on 2-of-13 Faulkner shooting from the floor.
     The Gold Rush led 34-30 after scoring the first four points of the second half but never held a lead that large thereafter.
     Faulkner outshot Xavier 47.8 to 38.6 percent from the floor — 55 to 37.5 percent in the second half — and had a 31-28 rebound advantage. Whitely led the Eagles with 10 rebounds. Eighteen of Faulkner's 22 field goals were assisted, but no Eagle finished with more than three assists.
     Six Eagles combined to make eight 3-pointers — Mitchell and Alderson each had two — but Xavier made 2-of-13 from long range and was 0-of-9 in the final 33 minutes. The teams combined for 55 personal fouls, with Xavier committing a season-worst 30.
     The losing margin was Xavier's largest of the season and its largest at nationals since a 91-69 loss to Oklahoma City in the 2001 first round.
     NOTES:  It also was the final XU game for seniors Nick Haywood, Renard Smith and Keenan Gay. Haywood made 4-of-4 free throws to finish 64-of-73 for the season. The .877 percentage is No. 2 on XU's all-time season list and just a sliver behind record-holder Ronnie Walker, who made 93-of-106 in 1979-80. Carried out to four decimal places, Walker shot .8774, and Haywood shot .8767 . . . The Gold Rush lost for the third consecutive year in the first round. The XU men have not won at nationals since the 2007 first round, which is their only victory since 1973 . . . The Eagles will play at 9:45 p.m. Friday in the second round against second-ranked and second-seeded Lindsey Wilson, an 84-79 winner against Rocky Mountain in the game immediately preceding XU-Faulkner . . . It was Faulkner's second victory of the day against Xavier. The Lady Eagles defeated the Gold Nuggets 67-63 in the opening round of that NAIA tournament Thursday morning in Frankfort, Ky. — approximately 530 miles from Kansas City.


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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