MILLIGAN COLLEGE — The reviews are in. Opening night was a success for Milligan College.
The Buffs were victorious in a pair of Appalachian Athletic Conference openers on Wednesday night at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.
The Milligan men broke open a close game early in the second half to rout Virginia Intermont 92-69.
Earlier in the evening, Johneshia Good scored 24 points to lead the Milligan women to an 88-83 victory over the Lady Cobras in their own AAC opener.
Jordan Cross and Cory Hendren combined to sink four 3-point goals in the first 20 minutes of the men’s game as Milligan took a 37-30 halftime lead.
The Buffs (3-3, 1-0) pushed the lead out to 17 points on Torian Sitton’s layup three minutes into the second half, and were well on their way to victory.
“It was a big win for us,” Milligan head coach Bill Robinson said. “You go through some doubts after playing those Division 1 teams when you struggle. You wonder if you are as good as you thought.
“I don’t think we’re this good, but I think we’re better than what we’ve been the past couple of weeks.”
Cross, a former Sullivan East standout who missed his senior high school season with a torn ACL, tied Mickey Woods for the Milligan scoring lead with 17 points. The night went so well for the 6-foot-3 freshman guard that an alley-oop attempt to Tyler Devault actually went through the basket for one of his five 3-point goals.
“I saw he was open and I just threw it,” Cross said. “I wasn’t aiming for it to go in, but it went in.
“I didn’t expect to come in here like this my freshman year, especially after the injury. I just thank coach Robinson for the opportunity to do that.”
Justin Morris led the Cobras (5-3, 0-1) with 17 points. Daniel Ross scored 15, while Joshua Hart (12 points) and Neven Raspudic (10 points) all reached double digits.
For Milligan, five players were in double figures. Besides Cross and Woods, Tyler DeVault ended with 14, Cory Hendren posted 13, and Torian Sitton added 10 points.
Milligan, led by Marshall Hardy’s seven rebounds, held a 31-25 advantage on the boards, and forced 22 turnovers on the defensive end.
“The guys did a good job committing defensively, especially the first half,” Robinson said. “They are tough to guard. You have to be able to guard your man and then help off, but I thought we did a great job defensively.”
Milligan (women) 88
Virginia Intermont 83
Johneshia Good scored 24 points and Kayla Kelly tallied 19 points to lead the Lady Buffs (5-4, 1-0) over the Lady Cobras (4-4, 0-1).
Milligan trailed most of the first half, not taking its first lead until the 4:39 mark on Dorian Freeman’s put-back. From there, the Lady Buffs stayed out front the rest of the half, with a 41-40 lead at the break.
The Lady Cobras pulled ahead by six points (55-49) early in the second half, only to see Good score on a rare four-point play to cut the margin to two.
Kelly scored a 3-point basket on the next possession as the Lady Buffs retook the lead and trailed only one other time afterwards.
“When we got down, everybody kept their heads up and kept fighting,” Good said. “We did it on defense, rebounded and did the little things we needed to.
“On that one play, my teammates got me the ball, I just caught it and it went in.”
Besides Good and Kelly, Ashlee Price (12 points), Alishia Mainer (11 points) and Dorian Freeman (11 points) all reached double figures to offset big nights of 33 points for the Lady Cobras’ Kayla Orrick and 19 points by Teonika Webb.
Attacking the basket, the Lady Buffs had 25 more free-throw attempts than the Lady Cobras. The Lady Buffs also enjoyed an advantage on the perimeter with a 10-1 advantage in 3-point goals.
“I really liked the way we competed tonight,” Milligan head coach Rich Aubrey said. “Every time they would make a push, we would push back. You have to come ready to compete and I thought both teams did that tonight. We were fortunate our runs lasted a little longer than theirs.”