Gold Nuggets receive at-large bid to NAIA nationals

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NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana women’s basketball is still in the hunt for a national title.

The Gold Nuggets (23-7) were awarded Wednesday an at-large bid to the NAIA Division I National Championship, presented by Wells Fargo. XULA will play in the tournament’s opening round against MidAmerica Nazarene (24-5) at 5:45 p.m. MDT on Wednesday, March 13 (6:45 p.m. New Orleans time) at Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings, Mont.

XULA is one of four teams seeded sixth. MidAmerica Nazarene is a No. 3 seed.

The XULA women qualified for nationals for the 20th time in 25 seasons, the 20th time overall and the first time since 2016.

“Our team — players and staff — worked extremely hard this season to get us back to the national tournament,” XULA coach Bo Browder said.

The Gold Nuggets’ highlights this season included:
•  Winning the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular-season championship for the first time in six years.
•  Setting school records for 3-point field goals made in a game (12) and season (194).
•  A 59-47 victory at NCAA Division I member Southeastern Louisiana.
•  Unbeaten at home (13-0) for the first time in six seasons.
•  Jas Hill was XULA’s first GCAC Player of the Year in eight seasons.
•  Mikayla Bates became the seventh XULA woman to reach 600 points, 400 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals in a career.
•  Maya Trench became the sixth XULA woman to reach 500 points, 300 rebounds and 300 assists in a career.
•  An active streak of 494 consecutive games gaining 10-or-more turnovers.

Browder will make his 15th trip to nationals in 20 seasons as XULA’s head coach. His career record is 469-186 (.716).     MidAmerica Nazarene, located in Olathe, Kan., finished second in the Heart of America Athletic Conference. Like the Gold Nuggets, the Pioneers lost their quarterfinal game in their conference tournament.

This is the 39th annual NAIA national tournament for women’s basketball. The event consists of 32 teams and is single-elimination. First-round games will be played March 13-14, followed by the second round (round of 16) March 15, quarterfinals March 16, semifinals March 18 and championship game March 19.

The GCAC will have more than one team in the tournament for the first time since 2016 and three teams for the first time since 2005. Dillard won the GCAC Tournament to earn the league’s automatic bid to nationals; Talladega, like XULA, received an at-large bid.

The Gold Nuggets are 8-19 all-time at nationals and never have advanced past the round of 16. Their most recent victory at nationals was against Westmont in 2014.

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