Milligan College basketball coach Bill Robinson was asked Thursday what he’s learned about his team two week into the new basketball season.
Robinson chuckled and went to the freshest thing on his mind – a 101-45 exhibition loss at East Carolina.
“I’m learning Conference USA is a little different than playing the Big South,” he said. “You give away two to three inches at every position, 20 to 30 pounds at every position and quickness at every position … it’s a different world.”
The Buffs return to Big South territory Saturday night when they visit Charleston Southern. They go in at 2-2, with a couple of lopsided wins over Knoxville College and a couple of lopsided losses to nationally ranked NAIA teams in Florida.
Forget the 56-point blowout at East Carolina.
“We just move on from that,” said Robinson. “These are the kind of games our players want to play early in the season. It’s part of what I’ve always done with my teams.
“I’m not afraid to lose, but you have to learn something from it.”
There’s a possible bonus for the Buffs while they’re in the Lowcountry. Mike Morrell, a former Milligan athlete, is now on the coaching staff at VCU, and the Rams are playing in the Charleston Classic at TD Arena this weekend.
“There’s a possibility of us getting some tickets to the tournament down there,” said Robinson. “That would be great for our guys.”
The coach knows these early trips help lay the groundwork for the long Appalachian Athletic Conference grind ahead. The Buffs are the defending regular-season champs and have been picked to repeat.
The AAC opener is Nov. 30 against Virginia Intermont, and Milligan will have played seven straight road games coming into it.
“That’s where you grow up and come together,” said Robinson. “You get away and focus on nothing but playing ball. We spent a couple of days at a hotel in Florida, and spent a night at East Carolina, guys found out a lot about each other.”
n The Milligan women are finding out a few things about their team, too. Some of it hasn’t pleased coach Rich Aubrey.
“We’ve seen some good teams, but we’re not off to a very good start,” Aubrey said Thursday. “I’m not basing that strictly on wins and losses. I just feel like we don’t know exactly who we want to be on offense or defense right now.
“Until we become a little more convinced of our identity, we may struggle some more.”
The Lady Buffs are 1-4, including a couple of losses to Lees-McRae, a Division II team. They lost by 16 at home to the Lady Bobcats the first week of the season, then were routed 96-61 Wednesday night in Banner Elk.
The lone victory came at home against Virginia-Wise.
“We’re just making too many bad decisions in the open court,” said Aubrey. “I still feel confident we can get where we want to go. The question in my mind is what route we’ll take; I hope it’s a little more direct than what it’s been.”
The Lady Buffs are playing in a tournament at Berea (Ky.) College this weekend. They face Alice Lloyd tonight and then the host team on Saturday.
In a scheduling quirk, the Lady Buffs will travel to Alice Lloyd next Tuesday.
“It’s kind of a unique scheduling situation,” said Aubrey, “but I’m looking forward to these next three games. They give us a chance to grow and get on track.”
Junior guard Jaimee Hill and senior center Alisha Mainer lead the team in scoring, at 11.2 points per game. Sophomore guard Kayla Kelly is the top rebounder, at 7.0.
“Offensively, I’m pleased with the start Jaimee Hil has had. She came into the season with a newfound confidence,” said Aubrey. “Alisha Mainer has also had some good moments.”
It was a disappointing end to the season for the men’s soccer team.
The Buffs didn’t lose in conference during the regular season and were the top seed for the AAC tournament. They lost to Bryan in the semifinals, 3-2 in double overtime, to finish at 12-5.
The Buffs were listed at No. 26 in the final NAIA ratings index earlier this week.
“I am proud of a great season,” said coach Adam Laney. “It certainly hurts that it ended earlier than we felt it should have, but I don’t want it overshadow what our guys did. It truly was a good team, and I hope we can continue to grow the program from here.”