JACKSON, Tenn. - 3/18/2007 - by Joe Reinsch, NAIA Women's Media Coordinator
First-seeded Union runs NAIA Tournament win streak to 13 games
First-seeded Union University (Tenn.) led by double digits for the final 27 minutes in an 83-58 victory over Houston Baptist University (Texas) to clinch a third straight semifinal berth at the 27th Annual NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at Oman Arena.
LaTorya Fuller's three-pointer with 11:04 remaining in the first half sparked an 18-2 run that turned a 14-12 deficit into its first double-digit lead, a 30-16 advantage with 5:25 remaining in the first half. With less than a minute and a half to go before halftime, Union held its largest lead of the half at 42-24, but Velencia Kuykendall made four-of-four free throws and Jessica Brantley's steal in the closing seconds led to a Dominique Thomas layup as the half came to an end, bringing Houston Baptist to within 42-30 at the break.
Crystal Eason opened the second half with her third three-pointer of the game, and Natanya Smith added two unanswered buckets to give Union a 7-0 run out of the break for a 49-30 lead just over two minutes into the second half. Union led by at least 13 points the rest of the way and pushed the lead to as many as 26 points at 75-49 on an Ena Daniels basket with about four and a half minutes left in the game.
Josephine Owino provided a team-high 18 points and eight rebounds off the bench for Union, while Eason and Kaitlin Dudley added 12 points each. Seven players finished with eight or more points for the Bulldogs, including Smith, who scored eight points and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds.
Kuykendall tallied a double-double consisting of game-highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds, including nine boards on the offensive glass. Despite the team's 16 offensive rebounds, the Huskies could only convert them into six second-chance points in large part because of a 28 percent (18-for-65) shooting night from the field. Thomas was the only Houston Baptist player to join Kuykendall in double figures, scoring 11 points.
Union, winner of the past two NAIA championships, runs its NAIA Tournament win streak to 13 games and will advance to the semifinals for the eighth time in program history. Union is now 30-5 on the season and will face the Southern Nazarene/Lambuth winner in Monday's second semifinal at 8 p.m. Houston Baptist drops to 27-7 to wrap up the year.
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