Gold Rush rally, then hold on to defeat Rams 73-70

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NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana erased a 16-point first-half deficit, then held on Monday for a 73-70 men’s basketball victory against Mobile.

The Gold Rush (6-2) won for the second time in three days. The XULA men are 3-0 at home this season.

Jeff Dixon, one of four XULA players to score in double figures, had career highs of 19 points and eight assists. Mike Williams scored 12 points, and Rayshawn Mart and Jalen David had 11 apiece.

Tony-Toni Wright scored 16 points for the Rams (2-4). Andre Elam scored 14 points, and JaBarie Escoffery had 10.

XULA trailed 23-7 through 10 minutes, then rallied to grab a 33-27 halftime lead. A Joseph Williams basket gave the Gold Rush a 61-46 lead with 7:06 remaining. Mobile got as close as 71-70 and missed two 3-pointers on the final possession.

Dixon, a junior from New Orleans and in his first season of eligibility at XULA, became the first Gold Rush player to reach 19 points and eight assists in the same game since Wanto Joseph had 21 points and eight assists in an 84-79 home victory against Philander Smith on Jan. 19, 2013.

“Jeffrey has been coming along steadily,” XULA coach Alfred Williams said. “He carried the scoring load, and we really needed it.”

A primary reason for that need was the absence of another junior guard, Virgil Davison. He entered the game with a team-leading 15.3 scoring average, but he left this game for good with no points at 11:31 of the first half — shortly after his second turnover.

Soon after Davison’s departure, XULA struck gold. It hit 8 of its last 12 shots from the floor of the half, then shot 60 percent in the second half to finish at a season-best 56.1.

Another player who did not reach recent levels was Escoffery, a junior guard who entered averaging 17.2 points and making 61 percent of his treys. But Escoffery shot a season-low seven times from the floor, made 2-of-5 treys and missed all five of his free throws, four in the final 9 1/2 minutes.

Mobile shot 47.2 percent from the floor, 50 percent in the second half, but was 14-of-28 at the line, 11-of-22 in the second half.

XULA scored the final points on Elex Carter’s two free throws with eight seconds remaining, but the Gold Rush could not exhale until D.J. Hill and Xavier Howard missed treys in the final three seconds. A make by Hill or Howard would have produced the Rams’ fourth overtime game of the season. Instead the result was their fourth consecutive loss and the 16th in their last 18 meetings with XULA.

Mobile is 0-5 all-time against XULA at the Convocation Center, which opened in 2012, but all those games have been thrillers. XULA’s average winning margin in those matchups is 3.2 points.

“Mobile’s just a tough team,” Williams said.

But once again the Gold Rush found ways to be a little bit tougher.

XULA will travel to Houston to play the University of St. Thomas at 7 p.m. Wednesday, then break for Thanksgiving. The next home game will tip off at 7 p.m. Nov. 29 against NAIA No. 2 LSU-Alexandria.

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