Gold Rush will go to Idaho for first round of nationals

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NEW ORLEANS — Xavier University of Louisiana will tack on one more far-flung destination to its 2022-23 men’s basketball schedule: Caldwell, Idaho, and the NAIA National Championship First & Second Rounds, presented by Ballogy.

The NAIA announced pairings Thursday evening. The Gold Rush (22-8) will play Hope International (20-10) Tuesday in the opening round at the College of Idaho’s J.A. Albertson Activities Center. The facility was built in 1991, and its basketball gym seats 2,422.

The XULA-Hope International winner will play the College of Idaho-Westcliff winner Wednesday for a chance to advance to Kansas City, Mo., for the last four rounds March 16-21.

XULA is seeded eighth and Hope International ninth in the Naismith Quadrant. College of Idaho (30-1) is a No. 1 seed and was unanimously atop the most recent coaches poll.

Previous lengthy trips for the Gold Rush this season were to South Bend, Ind., Uncasville, Conn., and Hobbs, N.M.
XULA qualified for nationals with an automatic bid, the result of beating 17th-ranked LSU-Shreveport 79-63 Sunday in the championship game of the Red River Athletic Conference Tournament at Alexandria, La.

Xavier Reaves — a 6-foot-6 forward and a graduate transfer in his only season at XULA — leads the Gold Rush with per-game averages of 13.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals. Reaves was MVP of the RRAC Tournament.

XULA qualified for NAIA nationals for the fourth straight season, the fifth time in six seasons — all under current head coach Alfred Williams — and the 15th time in 19 seasons.

Hope International finished third out of 10 teams in the Golden State Athletic Conference regular season, beat 25th-ranked The Master’s in the GSAC Tournament semifinals but lost 71-69 to Ottawa (Ariz.) in the championship game. Jalani Horn, a 6-7 junior forward, leads the Royals with 17.8 points per game and shoots 54.8 percent from the floor. Horn is one of four double-figure scorers on his team.

Hope International defeated XULA 61-52 in the opening round of NAIA Division I nationals in 2014.

This will be the second time a XULA team travels to College of Idaho for NAIA nationals. Women’s volleyball lost 25-18, 25-11, 25-14 to the 15th-ranked Yotes in the 2015 opening round.

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