Gold Rush win at 20th-ranked St. Thomas in hoops opener

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Three newcomers scored in double figures Friday, and Xavier University of Louisiana blocked its most shots in a game in at least 14 seasons in a 75-73 men’s basketball victory against St. Thomas (Fla.).

It was the 2017-18 season opener for both teams. St. Thomas is ranked 20th in NAIA Division II. The Gold Rush will visit another ranked team from that division, No. 14 Florida Memorial, at 7 p.m. EDT Saturday.

Virgil Davison scored 14 points, Timothy Jordan 12 and Jeff Dixon 11 for the Gold Rush. It was the XULA debut of all three juniors. Dixon’s a New Orleanian, with previous stops at McMain High School and Delgado Community College.

Jerry Gibson’s 3-pointer with 7:31 remaining — his only long-range attempt — put the Gold Rush ahead to stay 63-60 and started a 9-2 run. But XULA was unable to exhale until St. Thomas missed a pair of 3-pointers on the final possession.

XULA blocked 10 shots, six in the final 9 1/2 minutes. Elex Carter blocked a career-best five shots and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.

Also contributing for XULA were Jalen David with eight points, six rebounds, three assists and a career-high-tying four steals and freshman Rayshawn Mart with nine rebounds and two blocks. Mart and Galen Smith both started, giving the Gold Rush two true freshmen in the opening-day lineup for the first time in at least 14 seasons.

Second-year XULA head coach Alfred Williams got points from all 11 players he used. Six newcomers accounted for 45 points.

St. Thomas had five scorers in double figures. Fotios Malelis and Kamil Brown scored 13 points apiece, Philip Saunders and Tim Sada scored 12 apiece, and Khalil Williams had 10. Malelis grabbed nine rebounds and had three steals.

XULA led 37-35 at halftime. The game had 17 lead changes.

The Gold Rush outshot the Bobcats 42.6 to 37.1 percent from the floor. St. Thomas had a 10-4 advantage in 3-pointers made.

XULA won its opener for the 22nd consecutive season, but this was the first time since 1992 that the Gold Rush opened on the road. The XULA men will play their first three on the road before playing Miles Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center.

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