BEREA, Ky. - Union College's Sergio Gonzalez recorded a double-double, scoring a game-high 27 points, while snatching 12 rebounds, leading the Bulldogs to a thrilling 76-75 victory at Berea (Ky.) on Thursday evening in NAIA men's basketball action.
With the victory, Union moved to 6-5 on the year, while Berea fell to 7-4 with the loss.
"Tonight was definitely a big step in the right direction for us," said head coach Kevin Burton. "We had some great individual performances by Josh Smith, whose intensity and will to win led us, and Sergio [Gonzalez], who had some huge rebounds throughout the game. Overall, I was very pleased with our effort, and it was great to pull out a win in a tough environment."
In the first half, Union got off to a quick start, opening up a 12-4 lead with 14:34 left in the period after Gonzalez drained a three-pointer. A few minutes later, UC went up nine (13-5) after a James Strange trey. Berea. however, came back to tie the game up at 20-all with 8:35 left.
With six minutes left, the game was still tied, at 24-24. Here, the Bulldogs ended the half on a flurry, opening up a nine-point lead (38-29) with 41 seconds left after another Gonzalez three. Berea scored the final basket of the period, as the Bulldogs held a 38-31 lead after the first period.
To start the second half, Union continued to roll, opening up a big 20-point lead with 14:59 left in the game after a Smith free throw. Berea began to slowly chip away at the lead over the next 10 minutes, but still trailed by 10 at 70-60 with 4:24 left.
This was where Berea made a furious comeback, going on a 13-2 run over the next three minutes to take a lead for the first time since early in the contest at 73-72 with 1:41 left. Union, however, didn't allow Berea to have the lead for long, as they stormed down the court to create a Smith lay-in with 1:30 left, giving the Bulldogs the lead back at 74-73.
After a Berea turnover on their next trip down the floor, Strange knocked down a big jumper in the lane to give UC a 76-73 lead with 59 seconds left. In the final moments of the contest, UC had chances to put Berea away, but had a turnover, and missed two free throws, giving Berea the ball back with nine seconds left and a chance to tie.
On their final possession, the Mountaineers failed to knock down a three, settling for a lay-in at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs a hard-fought one-point win on the road.
Overall, Gonzalez's 27-point night came from some hot shooting from the floor, as the junior went 11-of-14 from the floor and a perfect 3-of-3 from outside the arc. Gonzalez's double-double was the first of his UC career.
The only other Bulldog to score in double digits was Smith, who finished with 16, while recording six steals. Meanwhile, Archie Adams matched Gonzalez's rebound total on the night with 12 ‘boards of his own.
Berea was led in the defeat by Aaron Ponder, who scored 17 points.
The Bulldogs are back in action on Saturday, traveling to Cincinnati Christian for another out-of-conference contest. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.