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Buffs counting on experience at NAIA tournament

Dave Ongie • Mar 7, 2017 at 9:06 PM

Last year, the Milligan College women’s basketball team came back from the NAIA Division II National Tournament with a healthy respect for the high level of competition at the event after losing to the eventual national champions.

This year the Buffs are returning with a healthy amount of experience on the national stage, and Milligan coach Rich Aubrey hopes that helps his team against another tough first-round opponent. The seventh-seeded Buffs will face the second seeded Tigers of Dakota Wesleyan on Wednesday at 7 p.m. inside the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

“I don’t think we fear anyone,” Aubrey said. “We certainly know any team out here is good enough to beat us and maybe even beat us badly on a given night, but I think also we gained the experience (last year) to know that if we do what we do and we play well, that we can play with the teams here.

"It’s good for your players to have that mindset.

Milligan returns to the national tournament with plenty of experience in the backcourt. Three seniors — Lindsee Price, Hayley Wyrick and Kelly Barnett — anchor a backcourt that is sure-handed but also packs quite a scoring touch.

Price sports an assist-to-turnover ratio of roughly 3 to 1 and has ranked among the national leaders in assists all year long. Price has just over 150 assists this season while Barnett enters Wednesday’s game just one assist shy of 100, and both players average over seven points per contest.

“We’ve been really blessed to have Lindsey and Kelly Barnett, who have done a great job initiating our offense all year long,” Aubrey said. “And when they need to, they can score. They’ve both been extremely dependable on both ends of the floor.”

Wyrick has provided the majority of the scoring punch from the perimeter, averaging 14.9 points per game, tying her for the scoring lead with sophomore post Sarah Robinson. Robinson has averaged a double-double this season, pulling down 10.1 boards to go with her 14.9 points.

Robinson has been hampered by a bad foot as of late, and Aubrey said that injury is still an issue heading into Wednesday’s game, but Robinson was feeling pretty good on Tuesday, which Aubrey said bodes well for his team.

Joining Robinson inside are Makenzie Raizor and Courtney Wilson. With all the size Dakota Wesleyan possesses, Wilson, Raizor and Robinson’s play will be crucial.

For all the lessons the Buffs learned in last year’s national tournament, Aubrey said there is one truth in basketball that tends to govern each game no matter what is at stake.

“The one variable that I think is in play anytime you play basketball is how do you shoot it and how does your opponent shoot it,” he said. “We control some of that offensively, but some of it just comes down to whether they go in or not.”

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