What a way to end the streak.
Tyler DeVault scored a career-high 24 points to lead Milligan College to a 84-72 men’s basketball victory over Union College on Wednesday at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.
In the process, the Buffs snapped a six-game losing streak and improved to 5-9 on the season and 3-3 in the Appalachian Athletic Conference. Union fell to 4-16 overall and 1-5 in league play.
Earlier in the evening, the Milligan women defeated Union 53-49 in a defensive struggle.
For DeVault, the past two and a half years have seen him change from a lanky freshman timid to take a shot, to an aggressive junior who made 10 of 12 field-goal attempts on Wednesday night.
“It’s completely different now than when I was a freshman,” DeVault said. “Coach (Bill Robinson) has done a great job, been a tremendous help to me. I’ve been in the weight room a ton and it’s really me helped out.”
DeVault scored 11 points in the first half as the Buffs took a 42-37 lead into the break. Milligan went on a 14-2 run early in the second half to push the lead out to 58-42. Union cut the lead down to eight and got back into single digits again after another Milligan run.
Each time, however, the Buffs responded to the challenges to finally win by a dozen.
“We have high-character kids and they just needed a little confidence,” Robinson said. “This was big for us to get the victory. When things go bad to see some resolve, some determination to come back, that’s a really good feeling as a coach.”
DeVault added, “We’ve been focused all year on finishing second half. We got to the 15-minute mark and we kind of let down. But after that, we just tried to stay intense and keep the pressure up.”
Besides DeVault’s big scoring night, the Buffs got 16 points from Torian Sitton and 14 points from Marshall Hardy. For Sitton, a big difference came on the defensive end where he had two steals and the Buffs forced 22 turnovers.
“We just work on defense so much,” Sitton said. “We’ve been going non-stop since we come back on December 29, but we have to push through it because it’s conference time. We advanced to 3-3 in the conference and hopefully tonight will help us wake up defensively.”
Sitton, a 6-3 sophomore, added that missing last season with a knee injury has made him appreciate this year even more.
“It’s hard to sit out after something you’ve worked so hard for,” he said. “You get to see how much you really love it. That helped my work ethic to come back and be the best I can.”
Point guard Kyle Grisby added 12 points and seven assists for Milligan.
Ryan Young hit 7 of 9 from the field to lead the Bulldogs with 18 points. Carlos Sanford and 6-foot-9 Serbian center Stefan Juzbasic each ended with a dozen.
Milligan returns to action Saturday at Tennessee Wesleyan.
Milligan (women) 53
The Lady Buffs (11-7, 3-3) went on an 11-2 run at the end of the game to pull out the close win over the Lady Bulldogs (12-5, 3-3).
Their comeback was spurred on by a series of defensive plays in a game which at times had the flow of an SEC football game.
“It was the first LSU-Alabama game,” Milligan head coach Rich Aubrey commented. “To the credit of our players, they stayed after the defense and rebounding until we could finally make enough shots. Then, we finally did what we had to do to make it over the hump.
“That’s a credit to just hanging in there and being tough. It was a hurdle we cleared tonight.”
The teams struggled offensively in a 21-20 first half with the Lady Bulldogs hitting just 9 of 30 from the field and the Lady Buffs an even more paltry 7 of 32 shooting for 21.9 percent.
While Milligan picked it up somewhat in the second half, ending with 27 percent from the field, it wasn’t until Ashlee Price knocked down an open 3-pointer at the top of the key that the Lady Buffs finally pulled ahead 47-45.
They led the rest of the way with Johneshia Good providing the final margin on a free throw with nine seconds left.
It was on the defensive end, however, where Good pointed out where the game was won.
“It was frustrating, but we played defense, stopped them from scoring,” she said. “We went to the offensive boards, did all the little things we hadn’t been doing the past couple of games. We just have to rely on defense when there are nights like this when we can’t score with the ball.”
Dorian Freeman ended as Milligan’s leading scorer with 11 points, and Alisha Mainer hit double figures with 10. Price grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds as the Lady Buffs won the battle of the boards 50-33.
Lindsey Waters scored 25 for Union, although Aubrey pointed out it took 21 shot attempts with Mainer and Price making her work for every point. Kara Pile added 11 for the Lady Bulldogs who entered the game ranked No. 19 in the country.