Best things in Gold Rush life are not free (throws)

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NEW ORLEANS — The last time Xavier University of Louisiana men’s basketball faced a Gulf Coast Athletic Conference team at home, that opponent — Dillard — shot 48 free throws and made 35. That was in last season’s GCAC Tournament final.

But Monday the Tougaloo Bulldogs put on an even more impressive parade to the foul line, attempting 53 free throws and making 42 in a 96-84 victory against the Gold Rush.

XULA made 22-of-28 free throws.

“Tougaloo made 20 more free throws than we did,” said XULA head coach Alfred Williams. “That was the difference right there.”

Tonzell Handy and Ledarius Woods scored 20 points apiece for the Bulldogs (13-2, 2-0), ranked 17th in the NAIA, and Kourey Davis had 17. Handy and Davis combined to attempt and make more free throws than the entire XULA team; Handy was 12-of-17, and Davis was 11-of-12.

XULA (8-7, 0-1), the GCAC regular-season co-champion a year ago, was called for 39 fouls. Four Gold Rush players fouled out.

So XULA grabs the dubious distinction of allowing 101 free-throw attempts in its last two home games against GCAC opponents. It’s an impressive yet startling spike compared to XULA’s other 22 home games against all opponents over the last two seasons, when visitors combined for 493 free-throw attempts.

Rayshawn Mart scored 19 points, Ed Carter 17 and Jeff Dixon 14 for the Gold Rush. Damani Flanagain — in his XULA debut after transferring from Coastal Alabama-Monroeville Community College — and Galen Smith scored 10 points apiece.

Tougaloo led wire-to-wire for the second straight conference game and extended its win streak to seven. The Bulldogs scored the first seven points, led 48-38 at halftime and pulled away after XULA closed the margin to 58-54 in the 26th minute.

Tougaloo’s free-throw dominance overshadowed a XULA performance that included 50 percent from the floor and a season-high 11 blocked shots, three by Flanagain.

XULA allowed its most points ever in a GCAC opener and lost at home in a GCAC opener for the first time since 2003.

XULA will go on the road for GCAC games at Rust (Holly Springs, Miss.) at 5 p.m. Saturday and Philander Smith (Little Rock, Ark.) at 7:30 p.m. next Monday. The next home game will tip off at 7 p.m. in the Convocation Center Jan. 17 — one week from Thursday — against Oakwood, a first-time non-conference opponent.

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