Gold Rush hold on to defeat city rival Loyola 72-68

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NEW ORLEANS — Cory Wells scored a career-high 23 points Monday to help NAIA No. 22 Xavier University of Louisiana grab a 72-68 men’s basketball victory against Loyola.

The Gold Rush (3-0) will visit NCAA Division I Southern Miss at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a game XULA will play as an exhibition.

Wells, a 6-foot-7 senior forward from Murphy, Texas, was 9-of-17 from the floor, 1-of-3 on 3-pointers and 4-of-4 from the line in 39 minutes. He scored 13 second-half points.

XULA led 35-31 at halftime and for nearly 18 1/2 minutes in the second half. Milan Mejia’s 3-pointer with 8:12 remaining gave Loyola its only second-half lead, 55-54. The Gold Rush tied the score when TJ Jones made 1-of-2 free throws at 7:05, then Lance Williams’ basket at 6:37 put the Gold Rush ahead to stay.

Jathen Ross of the Gold Rush scored the final two points, free throws with nine seconds remaining. Then Williams blocked Leonard Jackson’s 3-point attempt, and Glenn Rhone grabbed the defensive rebound to secure XULA’s first victory in its last four attempts against its city rival.

“Glad we won,” said eight-year head coach Alfred Williams, “but this game wasn’t close to our standard. We made a few more plays down the stretch than Loyola did. Loyola lived in the paint, getting touches in the paint whenever they wanted. We did not defend within our standards, and we can’t do that where we’re trying to go.”

TJ Jones and Jeremy Lindsey scored 12 points apiece for XULA. Williams scored nine, and Ross had eight.

Alex Hammond and Milan Mejia scored 21 points apiece for the Wolf Pack (1-2). Hammond grabbed nine rebounds.

XULA outshot Loyola 51 to 37.5 percent from the floor, but the Wolf Pack stayed close by making 25-of-35 free throws to XULA’s 18-of-30.

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