JACKSON, Tenn. - 3/3/2007 - Union University Bulldogs defeated cross-town rival Lambuth University 119-115 in overtime in the semifinals of the TranSouth Conference Tournament. With the win, No. 12 Union improved to 23-8 on the season. Lambuth, the No. 18 ranked team in the NAIA, dropped to 25-7 overall.
Union, seeded No. 2 in the tournament, also earns the right to play top seeded Crichton College in the tournament championship game. Union has won the past two TranSouth Tournament Championships and five tournament titles in the 10-year history of the league.
Lambuth started the game on fire and it looked like it could be a long night for the Bulldogs. The Eagles made their first three 3-pointers of the game and jumped out to their biggest lead of the game at 20-10, just five minutes into the game. However, Union settled down and Lambuth began to cool off as Union closed out the final 15 minutes of the first half with a 44-23 run. Union led by 11 points, 54-43, at the half.
The second half, Union increased the lead to 12 for their biggest lead of the game at 55-43. Lambuth then started making shots. Union answered the Lambuth surge for a while held an 11 point advantage, 67-56, with 13:47 left in regulation. But Lambuth kept coming. Ivan Jenkings, the TranSouth Conference Player of the Year, had just seven points at halftime, but exploded for 28 in the second half and overtime period to help spur the Lambuth rally. Union who played just seven players on the night, started to show signs of fatigue as Lambuth kept making shots. Then with 4:16 left in the game, the Eagles completed the comeback to take an 87-86 lead. Lambuth pushed the lead to five points, 97-92 with 1:30 left in regulation and it seemed to be over for a very tired Union squad. But Union found a way to score six of the last seven points, including a basket by senior center Ben Frederick with eight seconds left to tie the game at 98-98. Lambuth’s Jeremy Weedle, a Jackson native, got off the final shot for Lambuth that rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.
Overtime saw both teams score baskets on the opening possession to tie the game at 100-100. Union then went up 104-100 and never trailed again. Freshman guard Tacuma Alexander made 14-of-16 free throws in the second half and overtime to seal the win for Union.
This game featured six ties and nine lead changes. Union has now won seven in a row over Lambuth at home and claims the season series, two games to one.
Union shot 53-percent from the field, including 33-percent (5-15) from behind the arc. Union also managed 73-percent (38-52), including 31-of-41 in the second half. Union scored their season high of 119 points despite, not making a single three pointer in the second half or overtime.
Lambuth shot 47-percent from the field, including 57-percent in the second half and overtime. The Eagles also posted 39-percent from behind the arc, attempting 36 threes and making 14. Lambuth shot 69-percent (17-27) from the free throw line.
Union was led by Pierry Valmera with 24 points. Ben Frederick and Brian Lake added 22 points each, while freshman guard Tacuma Alexander posted a career high of 21 points in the game. Mack Bealim, who played 44 of the possible 45 minutes in the game for Union added 14 points. Union committed just 11 turnovers in the game after averaging 25 turnovers versus Lambuth in the two regular season games.
Lambuth was led by Ivan Jenkins with a game-high 35 points, including 5-of-15 from behind the arc. Kierren Lovick and Jeremy Weddle added 20 points, while Foluke Tobin scored 14 points.
Union will be making their ninth NAIA National Tournament appearance in the past 10 years and fourth straight appearance. Despite the loss, Lambuth will appear in their second straight national tournament along with Crichton and Union from the TranSouth Conference.
Union now advances to their third straight conference tournament title game in Memphis on Tuesday night, March 6 versus Crichton College. The battle of No. 1 and No.2 seeds will begin at 7:00 pm.
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