|Whitney Gathright and Xavier University of La. Golden Nuggets will began a championship run on Wednesday. (New Orleans Advocate photo)|
NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana’s basketball version of The Late Show is set for consecutive evenings, and maybe even a third.
The Gold Nuggets and Gold Rush will play 9:45 p.m. games in the opening round of NAIA Division I National Championships. The XU women (23-9) will play Westmont (20-9) on Wednesday at Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Ky. — that state capital is on Eastern Daylight Time — and the XU men (23-8) will play Hope International (22-10) on Thursday at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.
The XU games are the last of eight on both days at both tournament sites. XU’s men were assigned 9:45 p.m. games in the 2008 and 2013 opening rounds; both games tipped off later than scheduled and concluded shortly after midnight.
The Nuggets-Westmont winner will play Campbellsville or Southern Poly in the second round at 2:15 p.m. EDT Friday. The Rush-Hope International winner will get another 9:45 p.m. game Friday, against Southwestern Assemblies of God or St. Catharine (Ky.) in the second round.
Both XU programs seek their first national championships.
Xavier and Columbia (Mo.) are the only schools to qualify for NAIA D-I tournaments in men’s and women’s basketball each of the last four seasons. The Gold Nuggets’ tournament streak is five, and it’s their 18th appearance in the last 20 seasons. The Gold Rush are at nationals for the eighth time in the last 10 seasons and the 15th time overall.
This is the 10th time that both XU teams reached nationals in the same year. But the Nuggets and Rush have yet to produce same-year first-round victories. The Nuggets’ most recent victory was in the 2012 first round, and the Rush won most recently in the 2007 first round.
Both XU teams are led in scoring by sophomore guards.
Whitney Gathright leads the Nuggets with 12.2 points per game, and she’s the only Louisiana collegiate female this season with at least 40 made 3-pointers, 100 made free throws, 100 rebounds and 100 assists. Gathright was MVP of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tourmament, which Xavier won to earn an automatic bid to nationals.
All-conference Morris Wright leads the Rush, the GCAC regular-season champion, with 13.3 points per game and has been an effective shooter at 47.8 percent from the floor, 42.2 on 3-pointers and 78.5 on free throws. Wright is the only Gold Rush shooter ever to reach all three marks in the same season.
Quarterfinals at both sites will be Saturday, with semfinals on Monday and championship games on Tuesday.
-Courtesy of XULA Media Relations