Gold Rush’s missed connections result in another quick exit

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Xavier University of Louisiana limited high-octane Oklahoma City to a season-low point total, but the Gold Rush’s offensive struggles enabled the Stars to escape with a 62-50 victory Wednesday in the the opening round of the Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship at Municipal Auditorium.

Not only did the 25th-ranked Gold Rush (24-9) shoot a season-low 29.2 percent from the floor, but it also was a program-low in 22 games at nationals.

Still XULA was within striking distance late, trailing 45-41 when Jeff Dixon made a pair of free throws with 5:21 remaining. But the eighth-ranked Stars (24-8) scored on 10 of their final 12 possessions in a closing 17-9 run.

“We got the shots we wanted. We got to the line. We got to the paint. We just missed a lot of chip-ins,” second-year XULA coach Alfred Williams said. “Small things definitely hurt us. Lack of execution, defensive breakdowns, missed layups that we normally dunk . . . wide-open shots that we normally make. Some of those small things added up to a big thing, and we were down 12.”

XULA spent just 14 seconds with the lead — after Jalen David’s basket at 9:32 of the first half made it 12-10 — but the Stars took the lead for good on the next possession on Lou Dunbar’s 3-pointer. Oklahoma City led 29-21 at halftime, and the final score was the Stars’ largest of the game.

“Oklahoma City had momentum pretty much the whole game,” Williams said. “It was hard to get back in it. It hurts losing like that.”

David had 16 points, a game high, and eight rebounds. Dixon scored 13 points.

Samuel Williams scored 14 points, Dunbar 13 and Ridell Camidge 11 for Oklahoma City. Ivan Saicic grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, but XULA won the boards 44-39, including 18 offensive rebounds, its second most this season.

Oklahoma City entered averaging 89 points per game.

“We played hard but came up short,” David said. “We left some things on the table — close shots, missed free throws. Frustrated might not be the right word, but I’m a little disappointed that we couldn’t maximize our opportunities.”

XULA lost in the first round at nationals for the eighth consecutive time.

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