When a team needs a win in the worst way, sometimes it takes a peak performance to achieve it.
For Milligan College on Wednesday night, junior forward Tyler DeVault provided it with a career-high 24 points as the Buffaloes routed Union College 84- 72 at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.
DeVault’s effort also helped the Buffs halt an eight-game slide and improve to 3-3 in Appalachian Athletic Conference play.
“We’ve been focusing all year on finishing in the second half,” DeVault said. “We would get to the 15-minute mark and have a letdown. Our focus in the last two games has been in finishing strong, staying intense and keeping the pressure up.”
Milligan (5-9) led 42-37 at the break, with strong frontcourt play from senior post Marshall Hardy and sophomore wing Torian Sitton complementing the efforts of DeVault.
Sitton scored 16 points and grabbed a game-high eight boards, while Hardy added 14 points and six rebounds.
DeVault hit a pair of buckets sandwiched around a deuce by Bulldog guard Ryan Young’s trey before Sitton completed a three-point play to give Milligan a 49- 40 advantage early in the second half.
“Something we talked about at halftime was coming out in the first five minutes of the second half and seeing if we could push the lead,” Buffs head coach Bill Robinson said. “We knew Union’s depth was an issue, so we wanted to control the tempo and push it as high as we could.”
After a pair of free throws by Union’s junior post Stefan Juzbasic, Sitton scored a pair of buckets in the paint. DeVault tallied a deuce as well and sophomore point guard Kyle Grisby capped the scoring burst with a three-pointer to make it a 58-42 contest.
The two teams slugged their way through the middle of the half before another short Milligan scoring burst gave the Buffs a 74-58 advantage with 5:29 remaining.
Hardy tallied a bucket in the run, as did DeVault, and Sitton dropped in another pair of inside baskets in the rally.
Union (4-16, 1-5 AAC) got to within nine at 76-67, but the Buffs never allowed a major run to let the Bulldogs close the gap any further.
“We have to make a push now that it’s conference time,” said Sitton. “We’re 3-3 now and we know we can be better than that. Coming in this year I had time to really refocus and found my love for the game. This is something that I have worked so hard for and you sit out for a while, you find out how much you really love it.”
A poor shooting game was decided by defense and rebounding as the Lady Buffaloes got back into the win column after a tough loss to Bluefield on Monday.
Union (12-5, 3-3 AAC) took a one-point lead into halftime at 21-20, but Milligan rallied to take a 29-26 lead early in the second half before the Bulldogs ran off 10 straight points to take a 36-29 lead.
The Lady Buffs (11-7, 3-3) began to whittle away at the deficit with junior forward Dorian Freeman scoring a bucket and senior post Alisha Mainer adding two more in between a deuce by Bulldog guard Kara Pile to make it a 41-35 game.
Union was led by junior forward and last week’s AAC Player-of-the-Week Lindsey Waters’ 25 points, but the Lady Buffs were able to keep the six-footer off the boards most of the night.
“We moved the player she was guarding away from the basket,” said Lady Buffs head coach Rich Aubrey. “That enabled us to get some offensive rebounds and keep her off the boards. Another thing we did was we scored a couple of big baskets by going right at her.”
Milligan got the score to 44-40 with 4:09 on the clock and closed to within 47-45 on a three-pointer by senior forward Ashlee Price.
“Against Bluefield we had a bad shooting half and we let it affect our overall game,” said Aubrey.
“Tonight, to the credit of the players, they stayed after the defense and rebounding to get back in it. Ashlee Price’s three was huge – that was a big shot – and we did what we needed to, to get over the hump.”
Price’s shot sparked Milligan to a nine-point run which saw the Buffs take a 51-47 lead before a deuce by Waters made it a two-point game again.
Free throws down the stretch by junior guard Jaime Hill and freshman Chelsey Weddle clinched the victory for Milligan. Freeman led the Buffs with 11 points, followed by 10 from Mainer while junior guard Johnesia Good added eight.
“In the past few games we have had slow starts on offense,” said Good. “The difference tonight was we played defense and hit the boards.
“We came out with big rebounds on the offensive boards moreso than the last couple of games.”8176