NEW ORLEANS — It wasn’t long ago this season — 10 days, to be exact — that the Xavier University of Louisiana men’s basketball team was 0-9 on the road. But look at the Gold Rush now. XULA captured its second consecutive road victory in a 58-55 decision Monday at SUNO.
After trailing 27-21 at halftime, the Gold Rush (9-16, 5-4 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference) opened the second half with a 15-2 run and led for the final 14:24.
“We just got after it a little better in the second half,” XULA coach Alfred Williams said. “We challenged them at halftime to step it up, and they did.”
Neither team reached a double-digit lead, but XULA made enough plays in the closing minutes to remain in a third-place tie in the GCAC with Talladega. Some highlights:
• Back-to-back 3-pointers by Donovan Armstrong — his only long-range attempts of the game — extended the Gold Rush lead to 48-41 with 6:24 remaining.
• Mike Williams’ driving right-side shot kissed high off the backboard and through the net for a 52-44 lead at 4:09.
• After missing his first eight shots, all from 3-point range, Innocent Kukulu buried a trey from the right corner on his final attempt to make it 55-49 at 2:04.
• Elex Carter’s two free throws with seven seconds remaining gave XULA a 57-54 lead. Carter was fouled after rebounding Dominique Suggs’ 3-point attempt from the right corner for SUNO.
Also critical to XULA’s second-half surge was defense. The Gold Rush limited the Knights (4-17, 1-8) to 28 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes. SUNO’s Marcel Daniels scored 14 first-half points, but only four after halftime.
“That was a good group effort to shut down Marcel,” Williams said.
Williams and Seth Jackson, with 12 points apiece, were XULA’s only double-figure scorers. Carter grabbed a season-best 10 rebounds, and Jerry Gibson grabbed eight to match his career high.
XULA outshot the Knights 44 to 34.8 percent from the floor and outrebounded them 39-25.
The Gold Rush have two more games this week. At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday they’ll play host to a 19-4 Stillman team that won its last seven games. Then at 4:30 p.m. Saturday XULA will visit city rival Dillard for a rematch of a Jan. 28 game that Dillard won 104-71. Dillard has clinched a tie for the GCAC regular-season championship and can win it outright with a victory against the Gold Rush.