WILMORE, Ky. - Guard Tarik Smith scored a game-high 27 points, as the Union men's basketball team held off a late comeback bid by Ohio Christian to record a 94-91 victory Saturday afternoon in NAIA men's basketball action at the Luce Center. The game was apart of the 2013 Zweifel/Pritchett Classic.
With the victory, Union captured their fifth win in a row and moved to 10-2 overall on the year. Ohio Christian fell to 5-8 with the loss.
In the first half, Union took an early double-digit lead, holding a 28-15 lead with 11:37 left after a Deante Johnson jumper. Ohio Christian, however, slowly chipped away at the lead over the next six minutes, knotting the game up at 32-all with five minutes to go after going on a 17-4 run.
Things remained close until the final moments of the half, where Ohio Christian ended the period on an 8-3 run to take a 47-42 lead into the break for halftime.
In the second half, Ohio Christian continued to ride the momentum early, opening up a six point lead (50-44) in the first minute of the period. Union, however, crawled back, knotting the game up 53-all at the 16-minute mark. Over the next few minutes, the lead swung back and forth, with Union eventually taking a slim 62-61 lead at the 14-minute mark.
Here, Union went on a scoring tear, racing to an 81-69 lead with seven minutes left after a 19-8 scoring flurry by the Bulldogs. Union eventually extended the lead out to 14 points (89-75) with 4:41 left and looked to put Ohio Christian away down the stretch.
But, OCU did not go away quietly, as they slowly cut the lead down. With a minute left, Union clung to an 93-89 lead, then after a made basket, OCU had cut the lead all the way down to two points at 93-91 with 30 seconds left.
After an OCU foul, Michael Bueter made one of two free throws to put Union up three with 23 seconds left. But, the Union defense stepped up big in the final moments, as OCU never attempted a shot in the last 20 seconds of regulation. With that, the Bulldogs hung on for the three-point victory.
Overall, Smith led the way with his 27-point evening on 9-of-16 shooting from the floor. The senior guard also dished out six assists in the victory, as well.
Smith led five Union double-digit scorers on the afternoon. Johnson had 16 points (with eight rebounds), both Bueter and Sean Brown had 13 points, apiece, and Fitzgerald White had 12 points.
OCU was led in the loss by Wesley Russell, who had 22 points.
By the Numbers
- This marked the 13th time in Smith's career that he scored over 20 points in a contest. It is also the 15th time in his career he has led the Bulldogs in scoring in a game, as well (the fourth time in 2013-14).
- Johnson scored in double-figures for the 10th time in 12 games on the year. Meanwhile, White scored in double-digits for the ninth time in 10 games played.
- This is second five-game winning streak the Bulldogs have had in two seasons under head coach Kevin Burton. The Bulldogs ended the 2012-13 regular season on a five-game streak, as well.
Union takes the week off for finals, returning to action on Dec. 14 when they travel to rival Cumberlands (Ky.) for another out-of-conference clash. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.