JACKSON, Tenn. - 2/2/2008 - The Union University Lady Bulldogs, ranked No.1 in the NAIA, survived the upset bid by Bethel College (Tenn.) on Saturday, 89-79. With the win, Union equaled the program’s best start at 21-0 on the season. Union, now 10-0 in the TranSouth, posted a 21-0 start in the 1987-88 season, before losing to the University of Alabama 84-78.
Union has now won 42 of their last 44 games dating back to January 11, 2007. Also, Union’s 21 straight wins is just two wins shy of the program’s longest winning streak of 23 games back in the 1994-95 season.
In the first half, Union jumped out to a quick 11-3 lead sparked by a three pointer from freshman Kayla Hudson to start the game. However, Bethel proved to be up for the challenge on this day. The Lady Wildcats (10-11, 5-5 TranSouth) posted a 16-3 run, capped off on a basket by Jelena Budimir, to take a 19-14 lead with 7:38 left in the first half. Union responded to stop the Bethel run with a three pointer from Jessica Graves. But as the half ended, Bethel held a 34-32 lead. This was the first time all season that Union has trailed at the half.
Bethel came out in the second half determined to be the first team to defeat the Lady Bulldogs on the season. The Lady Wildcats scored the first five points of the half on their way to an 11-4 run, moving out to a nine point lead, 45-36. Union finally caught fire from the field after shooting well below average over the first 25 minutes of the game. Union ranks No. 1 in the NAIA in field goal percentage and No. 2 in the NAIA in three-point percentage, and the second half shooting proved those numbers. Union posted an 8-0 run capped off by a three pointer from Hudson to cut the lead to just one point. Union took their first lead of the second half, 52-51, with 11:58 left in the game. The topped ranked Lady Bulldogs would not trail again. Union continued their run in which they out-scored Bethel 35-13 to go from down by nine to up by 13 points, 71-58, with 7:40 left. Josephine Owino, who scored just five points in the first half, scored 14 second half points, all coming during that eight-minute stretch for Union. Bethel tried to post a comeback and managed to get within five points, 77-72, with 4:17 left. Union again stopped a Bethel run with a three pointer, this time from Kaitlin Dudley. Union sank 7-of-8 free throws in the final minute, including 6-of-6 from senior guard Crystal Eason, to seal the 89-79 win.
Union was led by Kaitlin Dudley with 23 points and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double. Crystal Eason added 20 points, Josephine Owino scored 19 points, and Kayla Hudson posted 14 points. Union shot 47-percent from the field in the game, including 48-percent (10-21) from the three-point line. After dismal shooting in the first half, Union posted 58-percent shooting from the field in the second half, including 64-percen (7-11) from three-point range. In the game, Union sank 21-of-28 free throws for 75-percent.
Bethel was led by Tristan Johnson with 22 points. Nina Kjokovic added 19 points, Jelena Budimir score 15 points, and Erin Meyer put in 14 points. The Lady Wildcats shot 41-percent from the field, including 36-percent (8-22) from three-point range. Bethel shot 88-percent (15-17) from the free throw line.
Up next for Union will be a road game at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas on Monday, February 4. The women will play at 6:00 pm, followed by the men at 8:00 pm.
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