Milligan College head basketball coach Bill Robinson found the perfect cure for his ailing back. Five days after undergoing back surgery, Robinson was on the sidelines as the Buffaloes won their home opener 83-66 over Warren Wilson on Monday night at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.
“The back feels a lot better with a win than it would with a loss,” Robinson said as his Buffs improved to 1-1. “I’m doing OK. To only be a week (after surgery) I’m doing fine.”
At times, senior forward Tyler DeVault put the team on his back. Called on by Robinson to be Milligan’s main offensive threat in the post this season, the muscular 6-foot-6 DeVault responded with a 20-point, eight-rebound effort.
“It’s different for me,” DeVault said. “I got into a lot of scoring last year, but this year coach is really putting the emphasis on me being the leader out there. I have to score when we they need me to, I’m just trying to do that for the team and give us the energy when we need it.”
Former South Greene standout Scott Blake gave Milligan a threat from the outside. The 6-foot junior hit 6 of 7 from the field, including 3 of 4 behind the 3-point line to finish with 15 points.
This year is the first varsity experience for Blake, a junior, who played on Milligan’s junior varsity team last season.
“The thing about Scott Blake is he just makes shots,” Robinson said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a rec game, a JV game or moving up to varsity. He has the personality that nothing fazes him. If he went 1-for-14, he would be the same mood as he is right now. We need somebody like that, a fun guy to be around.”
Ahead just 17-16 after 10 minutes, the Buffs went on a 19-3 run to break the game open.
Kurt Brooks scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half, as Milligan pushed the advantage to 41-27 at the intermission.
DeVault led all first-half scorers with 11 points including a left-handed half-hook right before the buzzer.
However, the Owls (0-1) climbed back into the game with a 14-4 run over the first five minutes of the second half.
Milligan responded with couple of inside baskets by 6-foot-11 junior Ignas Palaima and a lay-up by Torian Sitton which pushed the lead out to 10 points.
Warren Wilson continued to press on until a 3-point goal by Blake halted their comeback. The Owls never got closer than nine points the rest of the way.
“Playing JV, I hit a lot of shots and then to come to varsity, I hit a lot more shots. This feels awesome,” Blake said. “I just was trying to be myself out there.”
Sitton added a dozen points for Milligan and Mickey Woods led the defensive efforts with five steals.
Anthony Barringer with 17 points and Dan Jackson with 16 points were the leading scorers for Warren Wilson, which was more than willing to make the Buffs sweat it out in the early going.
DeVault felt the responsibility to turn up the wick.
“Every single night, coach tells me that being the senior captain, I have to be the one to get the team going,” DeVault said. “I have to get the fire under the team. I didn’t have that early, but he took me out (of the game), I got it going and we kept rolling.”