JACKSON, Tenn. -- Defending NAIA women’s basketball champion Union (Tenn.) never trailed in a rematch of last year’s title game with Azusa Pacific, posting a 61-50 win over the No. 2-ranked Cougars Friday evening on the second day of action at the Jackson (Tenn.) Rotary Classic.
Just as she did in a head-to-head post battle with senior center Kristie Hala’ufia in last year’s title tilt, Union center Zeinab Chan led the way for the Bulldogs, this time notching 18 points and 12 rebounds for the double-double. Hala’ufia responded with a 21-point, 11-rebound double-double, although she needed twice as many field goal attempts (24) as Chan (12) to do so.
Chan was joined in double figures by Hope Adams’ 15-point, 13-rebound effort, and Lavanda Ross added 10 points and 6 boards for the defending champs, who posted a 47-39 rebounding edge over the Cougars. Union also held senior forward Alex Moore-Porter to a career-low 7 points on 2-of-8 shooting, and no Azusa Pacific player besides Hala’ufia registered double figures. Junior center Amber Williams finished with 2 points and 3 rebounds, fouling out after just 14 minutes of action.
Union opened up an early 12-2 lead behind 6 points from Adams, and the Bulldog lead bounced between 6 and 15 points until the closing minutes of the game. With just under 5 minutes remaining, Union’s 13-point lead dwindled to just 4 points when Hala’ufia jump-started a 9-0 run that finished with junior guard Eboni Sadler’s 3-point play that pulled the Cougars to within 51-47 with 2:21 to play.
The Bulldogs never got rolling from 3-point range, sinking 4-of-23 (17 percent) from beyond the arc as a team, but an Adams trey was the first of 7 straight points over the next minute that pushed the lead back into double digits with 1:26 remaining.
Azusa Pacific shot just 26 percent (7-of-27) in the first half and trailed by double digits at halftime, 31-20. A Chan 3-point play gave the Bulldogs a 41-27 lead with 12:39 to play before Hala’ufia responded with back-to-back baskets that capped a 9-1 run over the next 3 minutes that trimmed the margin to 42-36 with 9:38 remaining.
Hala’ufia was 10-of-24 from the field, and Sadler recorded 9 points despite picking up 4 fouls in 26 minutes of action.
With its first loss of the 2010-11 campaign, Azusa Pacific falls to 3-1 overall, while Union remains unbeaten with a perfect 5-0 mark.
The Jackson (Tenn.) Rotary Classic features a 6-team field that includes 5 Top 10-ranked teams along with No. 19-ranked Bethel (Tenn.). The Cougars knocked off No. 9 Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) in their Thursday opener, and they’ll close out the prestigious 3-day event against Bethel.