Panthers use Brackeen-busting 2nd half to rally past XU

NEW ORLEANS — Junior guard Rashad Brackeen scored 25 of his season-high 31 points in the second half Monday to rally Philander Smith in a 71-69 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference men’s basketball victory against NAIA No. 14 Xavier University of Louisiana.

Brackeen made seven 3-pointers in eight second-half attempts after going 0-of-2 from long range in the first half. The Panthers (10-9, 3-1) made 11-of-20 3-pointers for the game, and the Gold Rush (13-5, 1-1) made 2-of-12.

Chris Ward scored 12 points and D’Angelo Tucker 11 for Philander Smith, which played without leading scorer Ronald March.

Morris Wright scored 14 points, Gary Smith 13 and Elex Carter 12 for Xavier, which is 11-1 at home this season. Wright scored in double figures for the 22nd consecutive game, and Smith did it for a career-best fourth consecutive time. Carter blocked a career-high-tying four shots.

Xavier trailed 10-0 through four minutes but rallied to take a 37-25 halftime lead. Philander Smith regained momentum by shooting 65.2 percent from the floor in the second half, including 8-of-10 3-pointers.

Brackeen’s 3-pointer with 11:35 remaining put the Panthers ahead to stay, 47-45. Tyson Oliver’s two free throws with 15 seconds remaining gave them a 71-67 lead.

The loss was Xavier’s first in five games.

Xavier will conclude a 5-game home stand when Auburn Montgomery visits the Convocation Center at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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