Tyra James scored a career-high 33 points and Sylvia Hudson poured in 26 to lead Urbana University women’s basketball to a 94-88 victory over Mount Vernon Nazarene in the Blue Knights’ home opener Friday night.
UU improved to 3-1 on the young season while Mount Vernon Nazarene suffered its second straight loss and dropped to 6-2 overall. It was the first meeting between the former NAIA conference rivals since UU transitioned to NCAA Division II. The Blue Knights have claimed eight of the previous 11 meetings in the all-time series.
James, who was voted MEC Player of the Week on Monday, continued her dominance by finishing two assists shy of a triple double. The grad transfer from Cincinnati went 12 of 21 from the field and 8 of 9 at the line, while grabbing a team-high 12 boards and dishing out eight assists.
Hudson returned to the starting lineup and had the hot hand early with 11 points in the first quarter. The senior from Sidney shot an efficient 9 for 13 including 2 for 2 from three-point range. Hudson also grabbed six boards. Sophomore Bailey Draughn also reached double figures with 15 points.
Mount Vernon Nazarene had six players score double digits, led by forward Taylor Gregory’s double-double with 11 points and 12 boards. Sage Brannon, a Division II transfer from Ashland, led the Cougars with 17 points.
Both teams shot nearly 50 percent overall and the edge in rebounding went to the visiting Cougars, 41-38. The Blue Knights turned the ball over a season-low 10 times while forcing 13 MVNU turnovers.
UU led wire-to-wire but Mount Vernon stayed within single digits most of the way.
Entering the fourth quarter, UU led 70-60 but the Cougars fought back to make it a one-point game when Dani Ellerbrock’s layup made it 85-84 with under three minutes left.
However, Hudson responded with a three-point play on the next possession as James found her open on the left block. The 5-foot-10 forward went up for the and-one basket with Cougars draped all over her, giving the Blue Knights an 88-84 lead and breathing room down the stretch.
UU struggled a bit at the line near the end, making just 4 of 8, but Draughn’s steal and free throw with 16 seconds remaining sealed the win.
The Blue Knights didn’t lead by double digits until the third quarter after going up 46-41 at intermission. An old-fashioned three-point play from James put UU ahead 66-55 with two minutes left in the third.
UU remains home next week to host Ohio Dominican (0-3) on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Grimes Center.