JACKSON, Tenn. – Three of the top four seeds have advanced to the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Tournament semifinals after third-seeded Union (Tenn.) University downed No. 6-seed Houston Baptist (Texas) University 71-50 in the quarterfinal round Saturday night at Oman Arena.
Union will face No. 2-seed and three-time defending national champion Oklahoma City University in the second semifinal game at 8 p.m. CST Monday at Oman Arena. Top-seeded Southern Nazarene (Okla.) University will meet the winner of the quarterfinal match-up between the University of Montana-Western and Central State (Ohio) University in the opening semifinal game at 6 p.m. Monday. The championship game is set for 7 p.m. CST on Tuesday, March 19.
Union (35-3) built a 17-point second-half lead in its quarterfinal victory, but had to hang on after Houston Baptist clawed back to within eight (58-50) with 4:42 remaining. The Lady Bulldogs then responded with a 13-0 run to close the game, sparked by six straight points from sophomore guard Christal Merriweather.
Houston Baptist came out cold and hit just 27.6 percent (8-of-29) from the field in the first half, while Union shot 40 percent (14-of-35) and forced the Huskies into 13 turnovers to build a 32-21 halftime edge.
Merriweather scored 14 of her game-high 20 points in the second half to key the Lady Bulldogs’ surge. Meanwhile, the Houston Baptist duo of sophomore guard Cari Scaff and sophomore center Elinor Smith scored 21 of their combined 23 points in the latter half to cut the Huskies’ deficit under double digits. Union connected on 8-of-8 free throw attempts in the last four and a-half minutes and 19-of-23 (82.6 percent) for the game to reach the semifinals for the first time since the Lady Bulldogs won their only national title in 1998.
In addition to Merriweather’s game-high scoring output, freshman center Allison Harrison and senior guard Mary Beth Haltom were also in double figures for Union with 17 and 11 points, respectively. Harrison led all rebounders with 10, and Merriweather and sophomore forward Jessica Henson dished out four assists apiece. Smith led three Huskies in double figures with 13 points, followed by Scaff and junior center Tiffany Andrews with 10 apiece. Andrews also grabbed nine rebounds.