Message in a throttle: Nuggets hit 100 in GCAC opener

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NEW ORLEANS — After Xavier University of Louisiana women’s basketball committed four final-minute turnovers Thursday in a come-from-ahead one-point loss at LeMoyne-Owen, head coach Bo Browder had a brief but strong conversation with his team.

“I told them I was tired of their antics,” said Browder, whose Gold Nuggets cruised past Tougaloo 105-71 in their Gulf Coast Athletic Conference opener Monday. “I told them to let me coach, and they can play. Some of them think they can coach AND play.”

Browder chose five players with a combined four starts this season — Caprice Taylor, Joi Simmons, Jalyn Hodge, Nina German and Nahrie Pierce — as his opening lineup against Tougaloo. It was the first collegiate start for German, a freshman walk-on, and the first start this season for Hodge. This quintet responded beautifully, combining for 47 points and only five turnovers while shooting 59.3 percent from the floor.

The stellar play was contagious for XULA (11-5), which won its GCAC opener for the 33rd time in 37 attempts. Browder used all 17 players; 14 of them scored. Two of the three who didn’t score chipped in with assists.

Taylor, reaching double figures for the first time since Thanksgiving week, scored 14 points. Pierce scored 11 points, her most as a Gold Nugget, and Maya Trench scored 11 to reach double figures for the first time in 10 games. Simmons, Hodge and Jas Hill scored nine apiece.

German produced a career-high eight assists with no turnovers in slightly more than 14 minutes.

Ahsia Clayton scored 16 points for Tougaloo (3-6, 0-2), Rashonae Rice had 14, and Debraia Bell had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

XULA highlights included:

• A 100-point performance for the first time since Dec. 16, 2000, when Browder’s third XULA team won 100-25 at home against LaGrange.
• Its most points in a game since a 110-62 home victory against Paul Quinn on Nov. 10, 2000.
• A school-record-tying 12 made 3-pointers. Hodge and Trench made three apiece, and Taylor and Essence Wells made two apiece. The Nuggets first set the mark Nov. 6 in a home victory against city rival Loyola.
• Making at least half its field-goal attempts for the first time in two years. XULA, which entered the game at 35.1 percent for the season, made 35-of-68 for 51.5 percent.
• 34 free-throw attempts — its most in a game in nearly two years — and a season-high-tying 23 made.
• A season-high-tying 29 turnovers gained. Ten Nuggets produced steals, led by Hodge with three.
• Its most points ever in a first quarter, 33, and its largest scoring margin in any quarter, 27. The Nuggets led 33-6 after the first period.

XULA opened the game with a 27-2 run, including the first 14 points, and led 52-26 at halftime. The Gold Nuggets reached the century mark when Adriana Fernandez, in her first game of the season, passed to Shaelyn Johnson for a layup with 42 seconds remaining.

“They got the message,” Browder said of his players. “Or they better have.”

The Gold Nuggets will go on the road for GCAC games at Rust (Holly Springs, Miss.) at 3 p.m. Saturday and Philander Smith (Little Rock, Ark.) at 5:30 p.m. next Monday. The next home game will tip off at 3 p.m. in the Convocation Center Jan. 19 — one week from Saturday — against Edward Waters, which eliminated the Nuggets at home in last season’s GCAC Tournament semifinals.

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