Monday, December 31, 2012

Erves leads Rush past Belhaven in another road victory

JACKSON, Miss. -- Denzell Erves scored a career-high-tying 23 points and grabbed a career-best 15 rebounds Monday to lead NAIA No. 16 Xavier University of Louisiana to a 73-63 men's basketball victory against Belhaven.

Erves became the first Gold Rush player of the past nine seasons to record 20 or more points and 10 or more rebounds in consecutive games. He led Xavier (12-3) to its sixth victory in seven road games this season.

Wanto Joseph had 16 points, nine assists and six rebounds for Xavier, and Renard Smith scored a season-high 12 points.

Jordan Butts scored 19 points for Belhaven (6-9), which lost for the sixth time in eight games. Curt Hall had 14 points and a season-high 12 rebounds, and Jerrial Dawson matched his season best of 12 points. Butts and Dawson each made three first-half 3-pointers.

Erves scored five of Xavier's first eight points in a 10-0 run to open the game. But the Blazers made seven 3-pointers and gained the lead three times before Anthony Boswell's layup with 20 seconds remaining -- his first points of the season -- gave the Gold Rush a 40-38 halftime lead.

Xavier never trailed in the second half, but Belhaven tied the score at 51 and 53. Erves' basket after his offensive rebound put Xavier ahead to stay, 55-53, with 7:34 remaining.

Xavier, playing on New Year's Eve for the first time since 2008, outshot the Blazers 52 to 35 percent from the floor and outrebounded them 42-36. In the second half, the Gold Rush limited Belhaven to 1-of-13 3-pointers and outrebounded the Blazers 30-20. Erves grabbed 13 second-half rebounds in his ninth double-double of the season and 16th of his career.

Both teams struggled with free throws -- Xavier made 15-of-29, and Belhaven was 13-of-24. The Gold Rush made 6-of-15 in the second half.

No XU player has grabbed more than 15 rebounds in the past nine seasons. Erves is the fourth during that time to reach 15, joining Cordell Hadnot (2011), Kelechi Okoroha (2009) and Alfred Williams (2008). Williams is in his fourth season as an XU assistant coach.

It's the fifth time in Dannton Jackson's 10 seasons as head coach that the Gold Rush are 12-3 or better through the first 15 games.

Xavier, the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular-season co-champion a year ago, will play its GCAC opener at 5 p.m. EST Saturday against Edward Waters in Jacksonville, Fla. The next XU men's home game will start at 5 p.m. on Jan. 12 against Tougaloo in the new Convocation Center.

By Ed Cassiere, SID

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