POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. – Top-ranked Union College roared out of the gates and raced to a convincing 98-60 victory over No. 3 seed Trinity International (Ill.) on Saturday to advance to the Fab Four of the NAIA Division II Men's Basketball National Championship for the first time in program history.
Tyrone Sherman (SR/Chicago Heights, Ill.) started things off with a 3-pointer, and the Bulldogs (33-3 overall) never looked back.
"Our first several minutes were really aggressive, really impressive," said head coach Kevin Burton. "We had a real good mentality on offense and defense. I wasn't really quite sure what to expect from our guys as late as we had to finish (last night) and as quick of a turnaround we had to play today, but our defense just really took Trinity out of what offensive looks they were attempting to get."
The national tournament is being held at Keeter Gymnasium on the campus of College of the Ozarks (Mo.) in Point Lookout, Mo.
With Paul Stone (SR/Danville, Va.) accounting for eight points, Union raced out to a 17-4 advantage by the 15:23 mark. From there, the points kept coming.
Gerrard Newby (SR/Lexington, Ky. ) scored 16 of his game-high 20 points in the first half, helping the Bulldogs to a 58-31 halftime cushion. Newby hit 4-of-5 from 3-point range in the first half as Union went 7-for-14 as a team. Conversely, Trinity International missed all nine 3-point attempts in the opening 20 minutes.
After a rather quiet first two games and an injury, Newby appeared to return to form, hitting 7-of-11 shots and grabbing six rebounds.
"I kept (Newby) in longer than I wanted to, but all in all, you never come into a game like this expecting an outcome to be the score differential it was," Burton noted. "Trinity's got a fantastic team, a great, young coach that's going to kick tails and take names in this industry. For us to play that well against a quality team was really good."
Union was a little sluggish coming out of the break. The Trojans (30-6 overall) put together an 8-0 run to cut the margin to 70-48 with 12:22 remaining. But the Bulldogs regrouped and went on a 13-3 spurt to push the lead to 84-51 with 6:49 to play on their way to the 38-point victory.
"I didn't care for our mentality the first eight minutes of the second half," Burton said. "We've seen that from us all year, but that group that came in there in the second half, they were just fantastic."
After Newby, Stone led the way with 16 points with Sherman and Mike Martin (SR/Flint, Mich.) each knocking in 14 apiece. Sam Natt (SR/Los Angeles, Calif.) came off the bench to chip in 11 points, sinking three 3-pointers.
Union had one of its better shooting nights, connecting on 53 percent (35-of-66) of its shots. The Bulldogs were solid from long range as well, hitting 13-of-28 (46.4 percent) from behind the arc. Trinity International shot 35.5 percent (22-of-62) from the field and made 4-for-26 (15.4 percent) 3-point attempts.
The Bulldogs collected 13 steals with Stone leading the way with six on the night. By comparison, the Trojans had five.
Next up for Union is fourth-ranked Indiana Wesleyan in the Fab Four. Tipoff is set for Monday at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT. The Wildcats