JACKSON, Tenn. - 2/2/2008 - The Union University men’s basketball team added to their longest winning streak of the season with an 86-79 win over Bethel College (Tenn.). Union’s fourth straight victory improved their record to 13-8 overall and 7-4 in the TranSouth. Bethel, who had their two-game winning streak was snapped, dropped to 11-10 on the season and 2-9 in the TranSouth.
Union won the earlier meeting this season at Bethel 90-68. Union has won seven straight over Bethel and now trails the overall series just 33-32. Bethel remains the only TranSouth school to hold a winning record over Union’s men.
Bethel came out of the gate with three straight baskets by Antione Lesesene to open a 6-0 lead. Union responded with an 8-2 run to tie the game at 8-8. Bethel pulled back in front and matched their biggest lead of the first half at six points, 19-13 on a three pointer by Clint Blackburn. Union again rallied with a 20-6 run to take an eight point lead, 33-25 at the 4:39 mark. Union matched that eight point lead twice more in the first half before settling for a 40-37 halftime lead.
The second half opened with Bethel scoring first again, this time on a three pointer by Brian French to tie the game. Bethel quickly jumped up by eight points, their biggest lead of the game, with a 17-4 run over the first seven minutes of the second half. With 11:36 left in the game, Union still trailed by eight points, 57-49. Then, back-to-back three pointers by Union’s Ryan Merriman and Matt Neaville sparked a stretch for Union that saw the Bulldogs outscore Bethel 29-10 over the next eight minutes. Union held their largest lead of the game at 78-67 with 3:01 left after Tony Brown and Neaville closed the stretch with two straight three pointers. Bethel didn’t go away as with just 1:29 left, the Wildcats trailed by just three points. However, it was the Union’s ability to sink free throws in the final 1:21 of the game (making 7-of-10) to seal the 86-79 win.
The game featured seven ties and 11 lead changes.
Union was led by the NAIA’s leading scorer Matt Neaville with 29 points, including six three pointers. Brian Lake for Union grabbed a career-high 21 rebounds and added 15 points in the game. Tony Brown added 17 points and Ryan Merriman posted 10 points. Union shot 40-percent from the field, 30-percent (10-33) from behind the arc, and 64-percent (18-28) from the free throw line.
Bethel was led by Leon Sewell with 27 points. Brian French added 12 points and Derek Demaree scored 10 points. After Lesesene opened with the first six points of the game, he managed just eight points total, but grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. Bethel shot 42-percent from the field, 38-percent (8-21) from behind the arc, and 75-percent (9-12) from the free throw line.
Up next for Union will be a road game at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. The men will play at 8:00 pm, preceded by the women’s game at 6:00 pm.
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