By Jeff Thompson
The men’s and women’s basketball teams defeated Christian Brothers University Feb. 9 in the Fred DeLay Gymnasium. As the Bulldogs transition to Division II basketball, Union has the opportunity to rekindle a 40-year-old rivalry with Christian Brothers University.
For the first time in 18 years, the men’s and women’s basketball teams hosted CBU in two heated matches.
The Lady Bulldogs tamed the Buccaneers in a dominating 79–50 victory.
Guard Christina Coney led the team in the first half with 23 points. LaTesa McLaughlin, 5-foot-11-inch guard, also helped the Bulldogs gain their first half lead with nine assists and 4 steals in the game.
By the second half, the Lady ‘Dogs were leading by 16 points and CBU’s chances of recovering were slowly being shut down.
In the 15th minute of the second half during a turnover at center court, Bulldogs guard Rebecca Sharpe injured her left knee.
Sharpe left the game and would not return.
Union’s defense would suffer and give the Buccaneers an opportunity, coming as close as 11 points to the Bulldogs. But Union held its lead with help from 5-foot-8-inch guard Amber Rechis, who scored two three-pointers and one jumper. The Lady Bulldogs would push their lead to 29 points and defeat CBU 79-50.
Coach Niven and the men’s basketball team would face a more difficult opponent.
With the Buccaneers’ 8-4 Gulf South Conference record, Union players knew they would be in for an uphill battle.
The Bulldogs struck first with sophomore Corieon Pearson scoring 2 points. Pearson continued to lead the Bulldogs, eventually scoring 13 points.
AJ Roberts also helped in the first by getting five rebounds and two assists.
Forward Michael Drake’s 3-pointer brought the Buccaneers within one point of a lead with 12:14 remaining before the half.
Both teams battled back and forth, with Union holding the lead a majority of the time.
With less than two minutes left in the half, CBU’s Pat Graham put up a shot that would bring the Bucs within one point to tie the Bulldogs.
With the score now 32-31, both teams scrabbled to put points on the board.
Pearson was left empty-handed with his jump shot with 57 seconds on the clock.
The Bucs got the rebound and put up a shot that would give them a one-point lead going into halftime.
The second half saw seven lead changes, with CBU taking its biggest lead, with 9:33 remaining.
Drew Hildreth drained 17 points to give the Bucs the 59-51 advantage. The Buccaneers would go cold after that, making just four of their 13 shots.
The Bulldogs Daniel Marti, Pearson, and Pedro Faller would all put up three-pointers to help the Bulldogs regained their momentum and take the 73-70 victory over the Buccaneers.
Steven Aldridge, Union’s sports information director, says the Union-CBU rivalry started back in the 1950s.
When both teams were a part of the same NCAA conference, “they were Memphis,” Aldridge said. “They would bring buses of fans up here, and we would bring buses of fans down there, and so the crowds really got into it.”
Lonnie Searcy, Union alumnus and former men’s basketball player, recalls his encounters with CBU.
“We were the main show around, and everyone wanted to beat us because we had a hard schedule and always had a pretty good record,” Searcy said.
Searcy also remembers the stands being full of fans from both teams.
“The Christian Brothers rivalry was always intense because of location and because both schools had a lot of pride and we played some physical games,” he said.
The Bulldogs’ long history with the Christian Brother Buccaneers includes close homecoming matches, single-point wins and losses, and some small scuffles.
Gerry Neese, a radio broadcaster who has covered the Bulldogs for more than 20 years, says Union is in desperate need of competition like CBU.
“We need rivalries. We just left our Freed-Hardeman, Bethel and Trevecca rivalries, and so we have to have something … for the fans to start getting excited about,” Neese said.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs will play Shorter University during Homecoming weekend.