(New Orleans, La.) The Loyola University New Orleans women’s basketball team closed the first half with a lead, but allowed a second half surge by Xavier University as they fell 65-74 in The Den Tuesday night.
Loyola (6-4) entered the locker room with a 35-31 advantage over the Gold Nuggets, but Xavier (5-5) started the second half with an eight-point run, pulling ahead by two when sophomore Whitney Gathright sunk one of two free throws, making it a 39-37 game in favor of the visitors with 17:42 left in the contest. Senior Jasmine Brewer answered with a Loyola field goal to even the score at 39, but the Wolf Pack failed to regain the lead for the rest of the evening.
Xavier reached their largest lead when Gathright completed the back side of a bonus free throw, stretching the Gold Nuggets’ advantage to 11 points 72-61 with 49 seconds remaining. Loyola closed in on Xavier following back to back field goals from junior Janeicia Neely and Brewer to make it a seven-point game. With time winding down, Gathright sank two additional bonus shots before Xavier earned the win. The Gold Nuggets were ranked No. 15 in the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Top 25 Poll.
Loyola opened the night with a promising first half, bouncing back from an early Xavier lead in the first 20 minutes of play. The Gold Nuggets widened the gap by five points with the help of a two-point bucket by senior Whitney Gaston-Loyd, but the Pack tied it up at 18 after junior Megan Whittaker nailed a three-point shot with 8:03 left in the half. Xavier responded with a field goal from senior Chelsea Broussard, but Neely earned the Pack their first lead of the game with a basket behind the arch on the next scoring play. Loyola pulled ahead by six when Brewer went one for two from the free throw line, and allowed just four opposing points before closing the half with a four-point upper hand.
Neely powered the Pack offense, turning in 22 points and three assists. Brewer added 11 points while freshman Kylah Jones chipped in with 10. Brewer and freshman Meghan Temple collected seven rebounds apiece. Jones earned a team best four assists and matched Neely’s two steals on the night.
Gathright paced the Gold Nuggets, contributing 27 points, two assists and four steals to the Xavier victory. Seniors Danielle Tucker and Paige Gauthier turned in 10 and 11 points respectively. Broussard led the rebounding effort, pulling down seven boards for Xavier.
The Wolf Pack will be back in The Den on Friday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. when they face another local foe in Southern University New Orleans.