On Thursday night, forward Sara Lytle, junior, and guard Tray Boyd, freshman, shined on the court of Fred DeLay Gymnasium as the women’s squad picked up a 75-63 win and both teams clinched spots in the Gulf South Conference Tournament.
The Lady Bulldogs got the victory despite a poor defensive performance in the first half. Defense has been the anchor for this team all year, but they gave up 39 points and a barrage of three-pointers to a Lady Lions team that averages 28 percent from beyond the arc this season.
Union rebounded immediately in the third quarter, though. They opened the quarter with a 13-0 run and held UNA scoreless for the first six minutes of the period. North Alabama scored only 24 second-half points against a suffocating Lady Bulldog defense.
Despite the great second-half defense, this win may never have happened if it weren’t for the offensive clinic put on by Sara Lytle. She had a season-high 26 points on just 13 shots in the game.
“I thought Sara Lytle did great tonight,” Mark Campbell, Union head coach, said after the game. “They had trouble coming to trap her because she was getting the ball out to people. She really just dominated the game.”
Even though the men’s team didn’t fair quite as well in the 96-78 loss, there are still positives to be taken from the evening.
First and foremost, due to a loss by Lee University, Union clinched a spot in the 8-team conference tournament. If the Bulldogs can put together three straight wins next week they will clinch an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament in March.
“Just a couple weeks ago we were on the outside,” head coach David Niven said. “So I’m proud of our guys for taking care of what they did.”
Another positive is the late-season emergence of Tray Boyd. He has been electric all season, but he has played at a whole new level as of late. In Union’s last four games, Boyd has averaged 21 points per contest shooting 49 percent from three. Thursday may have marked Boyd’s best performance in this hot stretch, scoring 25 points and shooting 7-11 from behind the arc.
“I think [Boyd] played well for us tonight,” Nick Velasquez, junior guard, said. “And [he] hit big shots. We need that out of him to win our games coming up.”
The first of those games can be seen at Fred DeLay Gymnasium on Saturday, February 25th, as Union men’s and women’s teams will take on Alabama-Huntsville in their second matchup this season and final regular season game. The women’s game will tip off at 2:00 pm with the men’s game to follow. The Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs will also both begin their conference title runs on Tuesday.