TALLADEGA, Ala. — Freshman point guard TJ Jones scored a career-high 23 points, 16 in the first half, to lead Xavier University of Louisiana to a 91-78 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference men’s basketball victory Saturday against Talladega.
The Gold Rush (22-5, 10-1), ranked 14th in the NAIA, remained a half-game behind first-place Tougaloo but clinched home-court advantage for the opening (quarterfinal) round of the GCAC Tournament March 4. XULA will be seeded no lower than second and play the No. 7 or 8 seed.
XULA will stay on the road and play GCAC opponent Edward Waters at 7:30 p.m. EST Monday in Jacksonville, Fla.
Jones entered averaging 4.2 points per game. He was 8-of-12 from the floor, 5-of-6 on 3-pointers — 4-of-5 in the first half — and 2-of-2 from the line to produce the most points in a road game by a XULA freshman since Drionne Major’s 25 in an 88-83 victory at William Carey on Dec. 16, 2003.
“TJ shot with confidence and was happy to take advantage of what the defense gave him,” XULA head coach Alfred Williams said.
Four other Gold Rush players scored in double figures. Rayshawn Mart had 18 points, six rebounds and four steals. William Loyd scored 13 points, Makye Richard 12 and Virgil Davison 11.
Davison scored all his points in the first half and put the Gold Rush ahead to stay at 13:44 with his first of three 3s. XULA led 48-33 at halftime, and Mart’s basket with 12:30 remaining gave XULA its largest lead, 66-44.
Talladega (21-7, 7-5), ranked 25th, lost its second straight at home. Ray Doby and R.J. Kelly scored 19 points apiece for the Tornadoes, and Morris Dunnigan scored 18. Doby grabbed 12 rebounds.
XULA committed a season-low nine turnovers, outshot Talladega 53.6 to 42.4 percent from the floor and scored its most points at Talladega since 1978.
XULA has won three straight, 12 of its last 13 games and 18 of its last 20. On the road, XULA has won eight of its last 10 games.