Men's Basketball - Fri, Feb. 6, 2009
News Photo

BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - Union College travels to No. 10 Bluefield (Va.) College Saturday and look to do something no one else in the Appalachian Athletic Conference has done this season, defeat the Rams.

Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.

A two-game winning for the Bulldogs was snapped Wednesday as Virginia Intermont College escaped from Barbourville with an 82-73 victory.

After controlling the game early, Union watched as Virginia Intermont rallied to take a 45-41 lead into the half-time break. The Bulldogs led for 36 seconds in the final half, but Virginia Intermont reeled off six-straight points to regain the lead and control over the final four minutes.

Beau Brown (Athens, Tenn.) scored a team-best 18 points in the defeat. Antonio Murry (Antioch, Tenn.) dished out nine assists, scored six points, grabbed five rebounds and was credited with seven steals. The seven steals are the most any Bulldog has recorded this season. James Johnson (Lexington, Ky.) chipped in 10 points.

Brown boosted his scoring average to 13.7 points per game. He is the only Bulldog to start in all 23 games this season. Brown has scored in double-digits 18 times this season. He has totaled 44 steals this season as well.

Johnson maintained his 10.7 scoring average. Brett Miller (Carrolton, Ky.) and his 5.1 rebounds per game paces Union.

In the last three games, Union has sent a different starting lineup out each time. Over the 23 games, head coach Kelly Combs has used nine different starting lineups as 10 different players have started a game.

Bluefield improved to 20-5 overall and 13-0 in conference play after storming past No. 23 King (Tenn.) College 94-71 Wednesday.

The Rams have four players averaging double-digits in the scoring category. Curtis Dixon provides 18.3 per contest with Coryon Ross averaging 18.1 per game. Dixon ranks 38th among NAIA Division II players while Ross is 43rd. Omar Reed owns a scoring average of 17.5 per contest with a team-best 9.5 rebound per game average. The 9.5 rebounds has him 15th nationally while 3.9 are on the offensive side, good enough to rank fourth in the country. Johnny Witherspoon pours in 10.5 points per game with 4.8 assists per game and 2.5 steals per contest. His steal average is 17th and the 4.8 assists is the 20th-best average in Division II.

Bluefield leads the country with a 93.5 scoring average. However, the Rams allow 84.9 points per contest. The 8.6 scoring margin is the best in the conference. Union owns a 71.8 scoring average and allowing 73.5.

Of the other 17 conference categories, Bluefield ranks in the Top-5 in 14 statistical categories. The Rams are making the most 3-pointers (10.4 per game), grabbing the most total rebounds (40.7 per game), offensive rebounds (17.1 per game), blocking the most shots (5.2 per game), owns the best turnover margin and records the most steals (10.9 per game) among AAC teams.

In all, Bluefield has eight Top-15 team statistical rankings in the country and 14 Top-50 individual rankings.

The No. 10 ranking for Bluefield is the highest for any Bluefield athletic program. Monday's ranking was the second-straight week for the Rams at No. 10 after moving up from No. 12.

In the conference race, Union remains tied with Tennessee Wesleyan College in third with similar 8-5 AAC records. Bryan (Tenn.) College has a 7-6 record which is a game behind Union and Tennessee Wesleyan. Bluefield owns the conference lead at 13-0. King sets alone in second with a 10-3 conference mark.

This will not be Union's first game against a Top-10 team as the Bulldogs knocked off a Top-5 team to end 2008. The Bulldogs upended the University of Rio Grande (Ohio) 83-75 as the RedStorm was ranked fifth at the time on Dec. 31. It was the first win over a Top-10 team since the 2000-2001 season for the Bulldogs and the first for Combs during his seven-year tenure on the Bulldogs' sideline. Before the win over Rio, Union's previous win versus a Top-10 team came as a member of the Mid-South Conference and was over No. 7 Georgetown (Ky.) College, 66-63.

When the two met the first time on Jan. 7, Bluefield, then ranked 18th, took a 96-85 victory inside Robsion Arena. Union made a run during the second half, but an 18-point deficit at halftime proved too much to overcome. The Bulldogs were unable to cut the game into single digits down the stretch. Bluefield's 51 points are the most allowed in an opening half by Union this season.

Union's only lead came when Johnson scored on a put back t make the score 5-3. Brown led the Bulldogs with 18 points. Bill Davis (Harrodsburg, Ky.) posted a career high with 13 points. Miller was 8-for-8 at the free throw line en route to 10 points.

Witherspoon poured in 23 points with five assists. Ross added 20 points while Reed and Dixon scored 18 and 16 points, respectively. Reed also grabbed nine rebounds.

Bluefield owns a six-game winning streak over Union over the last three seasons. Over that span, Bluefield averages 99.8 points per contest while Union is posing 81.0 points per game. In the first four seasons as a member of the AAC, Union went 5-3 against the Rams. Overall, Bluefield owns the AAC series advantage 9-5 and Union's record in Bluefield stands at 2-4 entering Saturday's contest.

The magic number seems to be 79. When Union holds an opponent to fewer than 79 points, the Bulldogs are 12-2. However, when the opponent scores more than 80 points, Union's record is 0-9.

To view how the two teams match up, click here.