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The Virginia Union women are one step closer to reaching their third goal of the season.ncaa bkb logo

Following CIAA Northern Division and conference titles, all that's left in the eyes of the Panthers - the top seed in the Atlantic Region - is the Division II championship.

Their pursuit started Friday with a 91-72 win over eighth-seeded Indiana (Pa.) in the first round of the NCAA Division II tournament at Barco-Stevens Hall on VUU's campus.

Three Panthers recorded double-doubles in Union's 13th consecutive victory. The team will face Wheeling Jesuit at 7 p.m. today at Barco-Stevens Hall.

Kiana Johnson scored 27 points and dished out 10 assists. Lady Walker scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Taylor White had 17 points and 17 rebounds.

Megan Smith scored 22 points to lead the Crimson Hawks.

Union's last game before Friday was Feb. 27 in the CIAA title game.

"It is just really exciting to see your team come out after almost a two-week layoff and be able to put 91 points up on the board. That was pretty impressive," Panthers coach AnnMarie Gilbert said. "The two stats that I'm more impressed with are us having 49 rebounds, 18 of them offensive, and only six turnovers.

"For a team that really has tried to balance the days that we rested and then the day we came back and prepared, I just thought our team did a magnificent job."

Indiana had 34 rebounds. VUU scored 46 points in the paint, got 24 second-chance points and 30 fast-break points. The Panthers scored 21 or more points in every quarter.

Just 2 points separated the teams after the first quarter, but the Panthers closed the second on a 16-7 run to take a 47-38 halftime lead. White already had a double-double in the first half with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Johnson had 14 points. Walker added 13 points and eight rebounds.

Smith hit 4 of 5 from the field and two behind the arc for 12 points to lead the Hawks at halftime.

Union scored 9 unanswered just before the midway point of the third to make it a 15-point game at 59-44. The Hawks cut it to 68-56 after the third, but the Panthers outscored Indiana 23-16 in the fourth for the win.

"I thought we did a pretty good job of trying to negate the hot hand," Gilbert said of the Union defense. It held the Hawks to 40.9 percent from the field and 11 of 33 from 3-point range. "Kudos to them, because they hit a lot of big shots. They played us well early on. We just withstood some of their runs and finished the game strong."

The tournament originally was scheduled to be held at the Arthur Ashe Center, but was changed to Barco-Stevens on Wednesday night due to the floor of the Ashe Center not being a hardwood court.

The last-minute change didn't affect Johnson and the rest of the Panthers. In fact, they prefer Barco, where they haven't lost all season (12-0).

"We're comfortable at home," Johnson said. "We've played here all year. We haven't lost a game here. We don't plan on losing a game here, and we love our fans."


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