Coming off his 400th career victory as Xavier’s women’s coach against NAIA No. 22-ranked LSU-Shreveport on Saturday, Bo Browder was mindful of a possible letdown Monday against Edward Waters.
However, Xavier parlayed a hot third quarter and a strong finish into a 73-65 victory in its Gulf Coast Conference season opener.
“It was a good win coming just two days after the 400th against a tough team,” said Browder, who is in his 17th season. “We just have to keep getting better. We could have played better, but you’ve got to take the Ws right now.”
The Gold Nuggets, who shot a season-high 46.2 percent, won consecutive games for the first time since winning six in a row from Nov. 21 to Dec. 5.
Xavier (11-5, 1-0), picked to win the GCAC, was led by point guard Whitney Gathright, who had 13 points and seven assists, forward Donyeah Mayfield, also with 13 points, and forward Kiera Robinson, who had 10 points and a team high six rebounds off the bench.
Browder put Robinson, a 6-foot freshman, in the starting lineup to start the third quarter, and with her playing at the top of the 1-3-1 defense, the Gold Nuggets went from a one-point halftime lead to a 42-33 margin at the 5:47 mark.
“She’s a 6-foot post player who can guard anybody on the court,” Browder said. “When we put her up top, it caused a lot of problems for them.
“We stepped up our defense, and offensively, we reversed the ball from side to side and were able to get some dribble penetration in the middle and make some open shots.”
The Nuggets shot 69.2 percent in the quarter, but Waters (12-4, 0-2) battled back and ended the third on a 6-0 run to close to 51-46 by its end.
The Tigers came to 51-50 three minutes into the fourth, but 6-2 junior center Kelsee Singleton’s 18-footer and guard Emni Harvey 3-pointer from the corner on consecutive possessions pushed the lead to six.
Singleton then had a layup off a pass from Gathright and later two free throws with five minutes as Xavier built a 64-53 lead.
“The key was they made a 3 that gave them separation in the fourth quarter,” Waters coach Charmaine Wilson said. “They were able to get a double-digit lead after that.”
Freshman point guard Jermisha Collins scored 21 points in leading four Tigers in double figures.
Xavier won despite being outrebounded 41-29, as it held Waters to 36.2 percent shooting. The Nuggets don’t play again until Monday at home vs. Philander Smith. That’ll give Browder a little catching up to do returning congratulations for win No. 400.
“I received a lot of texts and messages from my peers and ex-players,” he said. “My phone is still blowing up. I can coach a little bit, but the 400 wins is about my assistant coaches and all the great players I’ve had who got their degrees and went on to success.”
In the men’s game played after, point guard Morris Wright, a senior from Zachary, scored 26 points to lead Xavier (13-4, 1-0) to a 71-52 victory over Waters (6-10, 0-2). Wright had 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-5 on 3-point attempts, in leading the Gold Rush to a 35-22 halftime lead.