Gold Nuggets rally late for 69-67 home win against Huston-Tillotson

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NEW ORLEANS — Freshman Abryhia Irons scored five of her career-high 17 points in the final 6:14 Monday to help Xavier University of Louisiana rally for a 69-67 women’s basketball victory against Huston-Tillotson.

The Gold Nuggets (5-2) won their third in a row and extended their Convocation Center win streak to 16. Huston-Tillotson is 2-1.

XULA trailed 63-56 after Kayla Barber’s basket for Huston-Tillotson with 6:14 remaining. Shaelynn Moore started the Nuggets’ 13-4 closing run with a 3-pointer on the next possession, and Irons scored five consecutive points to give XULA a 67-65 lead with 3:46 remaining.

Essence Wells put XULA ahead to stay at 68-67 when she made 1-of-2 free throws with 2:27 remaining. Kyla Duncan made 1-of-2 free throws for the final points at 1:06. Huston-Tillotson was scoreless in its final four possessions, including consecutive turnovers and, during the final possession, Ilana Sanford’s missed layup that hit the front of the rim — Mackenzie Davis rebounded for XULA as time expired.

Irons was 6-of-6 from the floor and led XULA with eight rebounds, five offensive. Wells scored 12 points — her second straight game in double figures and team-leading fourth of the season — and Moore scored 11 points and made a season-high-tying three 3-pointers.

“Abryhia Irons is not playing like a freshman,” XULA head coach Bo Browder said. “She’s playing like an experienced sophomore. The best about her is that she comes to work every day with her hard hat on. She’s not concerned about playing time or how many shots she’ll get — she just works hard every day. She’s an old-school freshman. She doesn’t mind doing the dirty work or making sacrifices for her teammates.”

Kryshona Carter had 15 points and three steals for Huston-Tillotson. Gemma Alhambra had 14 points and four assists, Traeli Calhoun had 11 points, three assists and three steals, and Barber had 10 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.

XULA shot a season-high 47.9 percent from the floor to offset a season-worst 21 turnovers and its worst field-goal defense of the season, 42.1 percent.

“I think our players enjoyed homecoming too much,” Browder said. “Huston-Tillotson is a pretty good team. They have a chance to have a very good season. They beat Mid-America Christian, which beat North Texas in an exhibition. Their seniors played very hard.

“We missed too many foul shots (12), and we were not doing all the little things we need to do. We had too many turnovers.”

XULA will play host to NAIA No. 23 LSU-Alexandria at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

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