KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Box score; video) Cody Walker scored 12 first-half points to help No. 12 LSU Shreveport (La.) to a 66-63 victory against Xavier (La.) in the first round of the 2012 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship this morning. Trailing 10-1 in the game's first six minutes, Walker and his teammates battled back for a 36-25 halftime lead. The 75th Anniversary event is being played at Municipal Auditorium.
"For us to miss so many free throws (nine) and still put them away and take the victory says a lot about our guys," said LSU Shreveport head coach Chad McDowell. "I'm very proud of our team and especially our seniors. But that Xavier squad is a tough and very talented team and they fought hard all the way until the end."
Five Xavier players scored points in the early run as the Gold Rush led 10-1 out of the gate. However, things quickly turned the other way. Derrick Parker, who is the team's second-leading scorer, started the comeback for LSU Shreveport at the 13:44 mark. When the dust settled, the Pilots rolled off 15 of the next 20 points in the game to take a 16-15 lead. After the lead changed four more times, LSU Shreveport ended the first half with an 11-point lead.
The Gold Rush came out strong in the second half. Led by five points from Chris Iles in a mini 7-0 spurt, Xavier took a 47-42 lead at the 9:52 mark. The team out of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference held onto the lead until LSU Shreveport's Mark Politte heated up. His 3-pointer and jumper around the 6-minute mark swung the momentum back for good. The Pilots were up, 56-51, at that point
A triple by Iles cut the deficit down to three with 27 seconds remaining, but the Pilots hung on with free throw shooting and defense.
For the game, both teams did not shoot well with LSU Shreveport going 22-for-61 (.361) and Xavier at 35.4 percent (23-of-65). Xavier hit 11-of-27 (.407) three-pointers, but was outscored 16-6 at the free throw line.
Parker, who leads the country with 22 double-doubles, notched another one with 13 points and 16 rebounds. Greg Shyne finished with 18 points, and Cody Walker came away with 12.
Iles led Xavier with 17 points in the losing effort. Denzell Erves chipped in 15 points and seven rebounds.
"I thought that the guys did a really good job all year long, especially coming back and being the regular season-co-champs ( in Gulf Coast Athletic) and getting to the field of 32, which is a very special place," said Xavier head coach Dannton Jackson. "We've had an unbelievable week, being here for the 75th anniversary and the banquet is really special."
Xavier completes its season with a 23-9 record.
Xavier - Xavier is making its 13th national tournament appearance and is now 4-13 all-time including a 3-10 mark in opening round games ... The Gold Rush have lost six-of-seven opening-round appearances since 2001, claiming their only win in 2007 over Georgetown (Ky.), 82-79 ... Xavier entered the game ranked No. 2 in the NAIA in field goal percentage defense (.379) and No. 8 in scoring defense (62.5).
LSU Shreveport - LSU Shreveport is appearing in its eighth-straight national tournament since making a 2005 debut ... The Pilots improved to 4-7 all-time in the event including a second-straight opening round triumph to even their first game record at 4-4 ... LSU Shreveport has now won seven-straight games and is 18-of-19 overall dating back to Jan. 16th ... The Pilots came into the national tournament ranked third in the NAIA in field goal percentage defense (.380), fifth in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.285) and ninth in blocks per game (4.6).