by Jay Stancil-SID at Union
Point Lookout, Mo– (Box Score) It was a bit of a slugfest but No. 1-seed Union College got the job done and collected a 95-83 victory over No. 8 seed Aquinas (Mich.) on Wednesday in the opening round of the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship.
With the win, the Bulldogs (31-3 overall) advance to the round of 16 for the second time in program history while also setting the program record for wins in a season with their 31st on the year.
Both teams struggled to maintain a constant flow to the game as the teams combined for 48 fouls. Aquinas got on a bit of a roll early, using a 7-1 spurt to jump out to a 17-11 lead with 15:19 left in the half.
But then, the Bulldog offense began to click.
Fueled by six points from Jaylen Daniel, Union embarked on a 20-5 run to break open a 31-22 advantage. Tyrone Sherman capped off the rally with an old-fashioned, three-point play 10:31 remaining.
Union never trailed again, but Aquinas kept things interesting, never allowing the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed pull away. The Saints cut the margin to one twice before the Bulldogs were able to push the lead to seven following a Sam Natt bucket with 38 seconds left in the half. Yet, Aquinas scored the final three points of the period, making it 56-52 at the break.
The Saints kept the pressure on in the second half, pulling even at 59-all following a Ryan Schall layup with 14:45 to go. The Bulldogs regrouped and raced out to a 72-62 lead with 10:16 to play. Aquinas managed to get the margin down to 84-80 following a pair of Schall free throws at the 4:08 mark, but that was as close as it would get. Sherman scored seven of his game-high 27 points in the waning moments to seal the Bulldogs’ 95-83 victory.
Sherman was solid at the foul line, going 11-for-13 in netting his season high in points. Paul Stone followed with 22 points for Union, and Daniel knocked in 19.
For Aquinas (19-15 overall), Jeremy Williamson led the way with 21 points, followed by Jake Bullock’s 19 points. Frank DeVos and Opeyemi Sholesi chipped in 14 and 12 points, respectively.
Union advances to the round of 16 for only the second time in program history and will face the winner of the College of Idaho-Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) on Friday at 9:15 p.m. CT. For more information on the national championship, click here. To watch the live video stream, go to NAIANetwork.com.