Sunday, March 6, 2016

Xavier Gold Rush knock off defending champion Talladega

NEW ORLEANS — RJ Daniels scored 14 of his career-high 19 points in the second half Saturday to lead fourth-seeded Xavier University of Louisiana in a 75-67 men's basketball victory against top-seeded and NAIA No. 4 Talladega in the semifinals of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament at XU's Convocation Center.
The Gold Rush (21-11) will play at home for the championship at 4:15 p.m. Sunday against second-seeded Dillard, a 95-76 winner against third-seeded Philander Smith in the other semifinal. It will be the first time that Xavier and Dillard, longtime city rivals, meet in a GCAC men's final.
Daniels' two free throws with 8:52 remaining put Xavier ahead to stay, 46-44. Daniels passed to Elex Carter for a basket and a 65-55 lead with two minutes remaining.
It was the second straight day that an XU player produced a career point high. Lucas Martin-Julien scored 20 in a 94-92 double-overtime first-round victory against Tougaloo.
Morris Wright and Gary Smith scored 14 points apiece for the Gold Rush, and Martin-Julien scored 12. Daniels and Carter grabbed seven rebounds apiece, and Carter blocked three shots.
Generra Varmall scored 14 points, Nigel Jones 12 and Jordan Washington and Donte Adams 10 apiece for Talladega (23-5), which won the GCAC Tournament in 2015 and 2014 and lost to Xavier for the first time in its last seven meetings. Talladega never led in the first half — Xavier held a 27-20 halftime advantage — and the Tornadoes led for less than 2 1/2 minutes in the second half.
Xavier outshot Talladega 50 to 40.4 percent from the floor and made 32-of-38 free throws to the Tornadoes' 15-of-18. Martin-Julien made 8-of-8 free throws, and Smith and Daniels made 7-of-8 apiece.
Xavier earned its first victory against a top-4 NAIA opponent since a 75-72 overtime victory at third-ranked LSU-Shreveport on Jan. 23, 2008.


Ed Cassiere, Sports Information Director

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