Union College men beat UNOH 64-58 to advance in NAIA Div. II Tournament

Union Men’s Basketball Story: No. 15 Bulldogs Make History; Grind Out 64-58 Win over UNOH

POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – Union College forward Deante Johnson (SR/Cincinnati, Ohio) scored a game-high 20 points, as the Bulldogs used a stifling defensive effort to get past No. 18 Northwestern Ohio, 64-58, in the First Round of the 2015 NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship on Wednesday morning at Keeter Gymnasium.

The victory was a historic one for the Union men’s basketball program, as it was their first ever in the NAIA National Championship. It was also the Bulldogs’ 21st victory in a row, and their 30th overall on the year, as the team improved to 30-4 on the season. This is also the first time that Union has won 30 games in a season, as well.

“I’m proud of our guys,” said head coach Kevin Burton. “Northwestern Ohio was the best team we played all year, they were so well coached. I was so impressed at how hard both teams were playing, we were both playing to win. Everybody got their money’s worth in this one, it was a classic.

“For a while, it was not looking good for us, but we grinded it out. I’m happy to beat that good of team.”

In the first half, Union came out and played well on both sides of the floor, opening up a quick 11-3 lead in the first five minutes of action. The roll continued for the Bulldogs for the majority of the first 10 minutes of action, as they held a 20-7 lead at that juncture.

But, the Racers clawed their way back in it, as they finally began to make shots. After dominating the majority of the final 10 minutes of action, UNOH ended the half on a 20-8 run of their own, as Union went into the half leading by just one point at 28-27.

To start the second half, UNOH continued to ride the wave of momentum and took their first lead of the game at 30-28 a minute into the period. Union, however, wrestled the lead back from UNOH, as both team traded the lead back and forth over the first 10 minutes of the second half.

With 8:25 left, Union clung to a 45-44 lead over UNOH, and began a run of scoring that essentially put the game away. A 12-3 run over a long period of time (over seven minutes) gave Union what turned out to be an insurmountable 59-47 lead with 1:11 left in regulation.

But, UNOH was not done, as they clamped down on defense and began to nail some shots. A three by Davon Payne with 23 seconds left chopped the Bulldog lead all the way down to three points at 61-58 after a quick 12-4 burst by the Racers.

However, the comeback for UNOH stopped there, as the Bulldogs made three free throws down the stretch and kept the Racers off the scoreboard the rest of the way, as Union finished off a First Round six-point victory in the process.

Overall, Johnson came up big on the offense end for Union, posting a 7-for-11 shooting performance to score 20 points. It marked the seventh time on the 2014-15 season that Johnson scored at least 20 points in a game.

Elsewhere, guard DeAntray Stevens (JR/Cincinnati, Ohio) came off the bench for the Bulldogs and nailed some big shots, finishing the game with 12 points. Stevens’ only made three of the game was a huge one, as it gave Union a 43-40 lead with 10 minutes to go in regulation. Meanwhile, guard Dominique Hagans (SR/Lexington, Ky.) scored 11 points, and forward Gerrard Newby (SO/Lexington, Ky. ) had 10 points.

But the star of the show all game was the Union defense, who held UNOH well under their 2014-15 season scoring average of 76.8 points per game. In all, the Bulldogs held UNOH to just 30.6 percent shooting from the floor in the victory – 28.6 percent from three-point range – and forced 18 turnovers. The 58-point output was also the second lowest of the season for the Racers, as well.

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