LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Chris Ward had career highs of 22 points and 14 rebounds Saturday, and Philander Smith scored four second-chance points in the final 3:03 of a 73-69 Gulf Coast Athletic Conference men’s basketball victory against NAIA No. 21 Xavier University of Louisiana.

The Panthers (11-11, 4-3) swept their two-game regular-season series against the Gold Rush (15-7, 2-3) for the first time. Philander Smith won 71-69 at Xavier 12 days earlier.

Morris Wright scored 17 points and Chris Ward — no relation to the Philander Smith player — had a career-high 14 for Xavier, which will play NAIA No. 8 Talladega at 7:30 p.m. Monday at XU’s Convocation Center.

Philander Smith took the lead for good, 64-63, when Ward — who scored 10 points in the final 4 1/2 minutes — made 1-of-2 free throws with 3:04 remaining. Teammate Ronald March rebounded Ward’s miss and scored a basket to make it 66-63.

The Panthers led 71-67 with 37 seconds remaining after Ward rebounded his missed field-goal attempt, was fouled and made two free throws. Xavier’s Ward made it 71-69 with two free throws with 25 seconds remaining, then Philander Smith closed the scoring with free throws by Broderick Brandon and March.

Jarvis Thibodeaux’s basket with 7:21 remaining gave Xavier its final lead, 57-54. Thibodeaux had eight rebounds, nine rebounds and a career-high three steals.

March and Rashad Brackeen scored 15 points apiece for the Panthers. Brackeen, who made 7-of-10 3-pointers and scored 31 points in the earlier meeting with Xavier, made 1-of-8 treys this time.

Xavier outshot the Panthers 49 to 45.3 percent from the floor — 56.7 to 53.1 in the first half — and outrebounded them 35-31. Philander Smith was plus-7 in turnovers, committing 14 and gaining 21, and made 22-of-35 free throws to Xavier’s 15-of-20. The Gold Rush made 10-of-10 free throws in the final 5:37.

It was the fourth XU loss this season by five or fewer points

Dillard gained a first-place tie in the GCAC with Talladega with an 84-74 home victory against the Tornadoes. Both teams are 3-1 in the conference, with Philander Smith in third place and Xavier tied for fourth with Edward Waters.

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