Kansas City, MO - On Thursday, Hope International returned to their defensive roots as they beat No. 12 Xavier (LA) 61-52 at the 2014 Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. Defense was the name of the game for both the Royals and Gold Rush who came into the game as the first (HIU) and eighth ranked teams defensively. Senior Jeremy Kilgore was ready from the opening whistle as he poured in a career-tying high 28 points.
Hope International started the game on fire as they hit six of their first eight shots. Junior Matt Green turned a steal into a fast break layup. Green then grabbed a defensive rebound before finding Kilgore for a quick jumper.
Kilgore was just getting warmed up. He buried 12 points in the first seven minutes as he hit 4-5 of shots including 2-2 from behind the three point line. He also hit two of three free throws as he helped the Royals (23-10) build a 16-2 edge.
Over the next 11 minutes, the Gold Rush (23-9) responded by outscoring the Royals 19-6 to climb within just one point at 22-21.
But HIU scored the final six points of the half to take a 28-21 lead into the break. Kilgore scored three of those points. Senior Regan Andersen dropped in a free throw. Sophomore Garrett Neilan beat the first half buzzer with a jumper.
Hope International cooled off after their hot start to shoot 35.7% from the field in the first half but held Xavier to 31.8% shooting.
Kilgore ended the first half with 17 points. Green ended with six points as the next top HIU scorer. Morris Wright topped XU with 13 first half points.
Out of the break, HIU quickly pushed the lead to nine points.
However, the Gold Rush climbed back within three with 13:26 to go in the contest.
That turned out to be as close as HIU would allow XU to get as Hope International used a 9-1 run to build an 11 point edge.
HIU lead wire-to-wire thanks to their hot shooting at the beginning and their defensive trade mark effort throughout the contest.
Kilgore ended his game shooting 9-18 from the field and 8-11 from the free throw line on his way to his 28 points. Green finished with a nice compliment of 19 points and three assists.
Head Coach Bill Czech stated, "For tonight's game the guys were really focused and hungry. They played together with good energy and positive attitudes. That was really the difference in the game as they really worked together. Xavier (LA) had a great season and is a very disciplined team. We felt fortunate to get a few breaks and get this game."
When Czech broke down the individual play of his guys, he commented, "Carlton Hayes was fabulous on the defensive end tonight. He guarded a guy that may be the best post player we have seen all year, and he held him to just four points. Kilgore came out aggressive and played his best game of the year. He was really fantastic. Green is turning into one of the best guards in the country. He is really stepping up. Tuff Barnes and Andersen gave us good minutes as Hayes and Austin Sanford got into foul trouble."
The Royals advance to the second round of the NAIA Div. I Men's Basketball National Championship to meet up with St. Catharine (KY) at 9:45 pm (CDT)/ 7:45 (PDT) on Friday. The Patriots defeated No. 5 SAGU 99-97 in their opening round game on Thursday.