Gold Nuggets use strong 4th quarter to win at SUNO

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NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana rallied in the fourth quarter Monday to grab a 45-40 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference women’s basketball victory at The Castle.

The Gold Nuggets (17-5, 7-0) trailed 34-28 through three quarters, then outscored the Lady Knights 17-6 in the final period to maintain sole possession of first place in the conference.

Nahrie Pierce had 11 points and 11 rebounds — her first XULA double-double and the Nuggets’ second this season. Essence Wells and Da’Jha Virgil scored nine points apiece, Mikayla Bates grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds, and Kyla Duncan blocked three shots for a career best.

A Wells 3-pointer with 6:42 remaining put XULA ahead to stay at 38-36.

SUNO never got the ball back after Wells stole Kennedy Moore’s inbound pass with 1:06 remaining and XULA leading 44-40. The Gold Nuggets played keepaway in the final minute thanks to two offensive rebounds, the second by Pierce.

Moore had 10 points and seven rebounds for SUNO (6-16, 1-7). Andriel Moss had nine points and 12 rebounds, and Kira Mercado produced six points, five rebounds and five blocks.

Both teams struggled offensively — XULA shot 21.2 percent from the floor (14-of-66) and 52.6 percent from the line (10-of-19), and SUNO shot 27.9 from the floor (12-of-43) and 50 percent from the line (11-of-22). XULA committed 20 turnovers but gained 30. Bates and Wells had four steals apiece.

XULA led 21-18 at halftime, then the Lady Knights seized momentum by outscoring the Gold Nuggets 16-7 in the third quarter. But SUNO was 1-of-11 from the floor in the fourth quarter.

XULA leads the GCAC by a half-game over Talladega (21-3, 7-1) and a game over defending champion Dillard (15-7, 6-1). The Gold Nuggets will travel to Talladega for their next game at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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