It appeared the Southern-New Orleans women’s basketball team may come all the way back from a big early deficit in its Gulf Coast Athletic Conference game against visiting Xavier on Monday night.
But Xavier fought the Knights off in the game’s last three minutes, taking a 75-59 victory at The Castle.
“We played good defense down the stretch, and (point guard) Whitney Gathright played like an All-American the last nine minutes of the game,” said coach Bo Browder of Xavier, ranked 24th in the NAIA. “This keeps us in the conference race. If we can have a good February, anything can happen in March.”
In a game between teams who played for the conference title last season, Xavier (15-8, 4-3) entered behind conference leader Talladega (7-0) and tied with Philander Smith (4-4) and SUNO.
The Knights (8-10, 3-4), who trailed by 22 points at the end of the first quarter, pulled to 63-57 after a three-point play by guard Rayvin Miller with 3:45 left. But the Gold Nuggets went on an 8-0 run, with freshman forward Kiera Robinson scoring six points on drives and passes by guard Trana Hopkins and Gathright.
Robinson scored a game-high 18 points to lead five Nuggets in double figures. Donyeah Robinson had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Gathright had 16 points and six assists.
The Knights had pulled within six in the third quarter — 41-35 — with 5:12 showing. But Gathright then sank a big 3-pointer that changed the momentum. The Gold Nuggets led 53-42 at the end of the third.
“We dug ourselves a big hole, and it took a lot of energy to get out of it,” SUNO coach Roshaun Ambrose said.
In the men’s game, point guard Morris Wright scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half, including eight in the final 3:03, as Xavier (16-8, 3-4) won 59-50.
Wright had a three-point play with 3:03 left that gave the Gold Rush the lead for good at 48-46. He then sank five free throws, pushing the margin to 56-47 with 46.1 seconds left.
“We got stops at the end, and our defense set up scoring for our offense,” said Xavier coach Dannton Jackson, whose team won at SUNO for the eighth time in nine games.
It came in the 100th meeting between the teams. Xavier leads 71-29.
SUNO (6-12, 1-6) was led by guard Junaid Olusesi and forward Dominique Suggs with 11 each.