Story by Eric Montgomery, NAIA Staff
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Box score) Hope International (Calif.) completed the group of 16 teams moving on to the second round of the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship in front of 3,186 in attendance after a 61-52 win over No. 12 Xavier (La.), Thursday evening in Municipal Auditorium. The Royals will face St. Catharine (Ky.) on Friday at 9:45 p.m. CDT.
Hope International seized the early momentum behind an energetic defense and the offensive tandem of Matt Green and Jeremy Kilgore. The Royals held the Gold Rush to just one field goal over the first 6:15 while Green and Kilgore combined to score every point in a game-opening 16-2 stretch.
A switch to a zone defense helped Xavier work its way back into the game. After falling behind 20-6 with 10:27 until half following a three-pointer by the Royals’ Garrett Neilan, the Gold Rush played the back half of the opening stanza to a 15-8 scoring advantage to trail 28-21 at intermission.
The Royals had a pair of nine-point leads in the early moments of the second half, an advantage that would slowly be whittled down to three points after two free throws by Anthony Goode with 13:26 remaining. However, Hope International answered with a 9-1 run over 3:51 to take an 11-point lead and wouldlead by at least six points the remainder of the contest.
Kilgore led all scorers with 28 points to go along with six rebounds for Hope International, which claimed a 26-5 advantage in points off turnovers after forcing 15 miscues by Xavier. Green finished with 19 points and three assists as the two players combined for 15 of the 19 made field goals for the Royals.
“We knew that Xavier was a really good, disciplined team and we felt very fortunate to get an edge on them early,” said Hope International head coach Bill Czech. “We got some early momentum that allowed us to play with the lead and that was a big difference in the game.”
Morris Wright led the way for Xavier with 20 points and seven rebounds after hitting four of his six three-point attempts. Goode chipped in with 10 points and Lucas Martin-Julien added nine points and six rebounds.
“There wasn’t a lot of offense, but that’s going to happen when you’re playing the top defensive team in the country,” said Xavier head coach Dannton Jackson. “We’re number three or four in scoring defense, so the game was expected to be low-scoring, but Hope International was able to make some runs and got to the foul line a lot.”
Xavierfinishes its season with a record of 23-10.
Hope International– The Royals won a first round game for the second-straight season in its only two tournament appearances … Hope International has won nine of its last ten games after Thursday’s triumph … The Royals improved to 16-1 this season when holding opponents to 60 points or less … Hope International came into the game as the top team in NAIA Division I in scoring defense, yielding 61.4 points per game.
Xavier – The Gold Rush dropped to 4-15 all-time in the National Championship after losing its fifth-straight first round game … Xavier suffered back-to-back losses for just the third time this season after falling in the semifinal round of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament … The 61 points was the fewest the team allowed in a loss this season.