JACKSON, Tenn. – March 21, 2006 – The Union University Lady Bulldogs claimed their second straight NAIA Women's Basketball National Championship and third in program history on Tuesday night with a 79-62 win over Lubbock Christian University (Texas).
With the win, Union capped off its sixth straight 30-plus win season with a 31-6 record. Lubbock Christian ended its run with a 23-12 record.
For Union, this extends its national tournament winning streak to 10 games. In those 10 games, Union has won eight by double figures and has posted a two-year tournament scoring margin of plus 15.9 points.
Lubbock Christian, who entered the tournament as one of the six seeds, knocked off two number one seeds, a number two seed, and a number three seed to get to its first ever title game. For Union, this marked its fifth trip to the final game (1993, 1997, 1998, 2005, 2006), with Union winning in each of its last three trips.
As the game started, an aggressive Lubbock Christian team jumped out to a quick 13-7 lead on Union and forced the Lady Bulldogs to call a time out with 15:33 left in the first half. Union responded with an 11-4 run to regain the lead at 18-17 with 12:28 left in the first half on a basket by Josephine Owino.
Over the next few minutes, both teams swapped baskets until the 7:41 mark in the first half. Union's senior guard Jennifer Henson sank one of her two three pointers on the evening to put Union up 27-26. Union would not relinquish this lead.
In just more than four minutes, Union stretched the lead to 12 points (38-26) with an 11-0 run, before taking an 41-30 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The first half saw Union continue its masterful tournament shooting from behind the arc as the Lady Bulldogs shot 63 percent (5-8), but it was the 12 first half points by freshman center Owino that help get Union the 11-point cushion at the break.
In the second half, Union quickly extend the lead to 15 points at 45-30 with back-to-back baskets by Ena Daniels and Owino. Lubbock Christian cut the Union lead to eight points on one occasion, 54-46 with 11:26 left. However, a three-pointer by freshman guard Jessica Graves put Union back up by 11 points.
That shot seemed finally to deflate the Lubbock Christian team that had been so good at comebacks during its tournament run. Over the next five minutes Union put the game out of reach as it posted an 18-2 run to take its biggest lead of the game at 77-51 with just 4:14 left in the game. The celebration began as Union coasted to a 77-62 final.
The Lady Bulldogs were led by Owino who posted her second straight double-double of the tournament with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Natanya Smith added 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Daniels added 10 points. In a tournament where Union's three-point shooting (43 percent) was so prevalent, it was Owino and Smith's combined 40 points and 24 rebounds in the post that sealed Union's second straight NAIA crown in the title game.
Lubbock Christian was led by Sierra Wilcox with 19 points and nine rebounds. Casie Legg added 14 points and Ashley Hunter tallied 10 points. Lubbock Christian made 41 percent (7-17) from behind the arc but shot just 36 from the field otherwise.
Union's Owino, Daniels, and Merideth Richardson were each named to the NAIA All-Tournament Team. Seven-year head coach and the NAIA's active winningest coach, Mark Campbell, was named the NAIA Coach of the Year for the second straight season.
By Steven Aldridge
Sports Information Director