DAYTON, Tenn. (Feb. 17, 2016) – In its third game of the season against an NAIA national top-25 opponent, the Milligan College women’s basketball team used another late basket by freshman Sarah Robinson and a career-high by senior Allison Jones to clinch a 77-75 win over No. 23 Bryan College Wednesday night to remain unbeaten against ranked teams.
Milligan, which is receiving votes in the latest coaches’ poll, retook the top spot in the Appalachian Athletic Conference and raised its record to 22-6 (16-3 AAC). The Buffs are tied with Bryan (24-4, 16-3) but own the tiebreaker having won both head-to-head meetings. Milligan can clinch the AAC regular season championship with a win or a Bryan loss on Saturday. Wednesday’s victory marked the seventh sweep of conference opponents this season for Milligan as the Buffs dealt Bryan its first home loss since last year.
After scoring 17 points in the first eight minutes of action and playing in the final regular-season road game of her career, Jones netted a career-high 34 points on a career-high five 3-pointers. The 34 points for Jones bests her previous career high by one and becomes a new season high for Milligan after Robinson scored 31 back on Jan. 24 at Columbia College.
Next for Milligan, Kelly Barnett added three triples for 11 points, Price had two threes with eight points, and Robinson finished with nine points, eight rebounds and a career-high five assists. Callie Cox, a senior, also added four assists while Barnett finished with three and both had five boards.
After the first meeting between these two squads came down to a steal by Cox leading to a free throw by Sarah Robinson with no time remaining on the clock, the pair hooked up again on Wednesday. With only 3.3 seconds remaining and the Buffs down one with the ball under Milligan’s basket, Cox found Robinson along the baseline as she finished with an old-fashioned three-point play to put Milligan ahead by two. Bryan had a chance to tie or win the game with 1.6 seconds left from the sideline, but was unable to get a shot off as time experienced on the Lady Lions yet again.
“What a great basketball game,” Head Coach Rich Aubrey said. “For the first 15 minutes or so, we played as well as we could play. But I’m even more pleased with the way we executed down the stretch. When we fell behind, we didn’t panic. Our guards got the ball to Allison first and then to Sarah at the end in good scoring position. They did the rest.”
The Buffs jumped out to a 32-13 first-quarter lead in this one and led by as many as 22 in the second quarter, but it was a 10-2 Lady Lions’ run to end the third quarter and a 9-3 stretch to start the fourth that made it a one-point margin. Cheyenne Shaver hit back-to-back treys for Bryan to end the third quarter, and then hit a third three to cap what combined to be a 19-5 run for the Lady Lions and made the score 65-64 Milligan with just under six minutes left.
Then, a score by Megan Billingsby after her own offensive rebound put Milligan behind for the first time at 69-68 with two minutes left. After going down by three, the Buffs’ seemed to regain the advantage after back-to-back scores by Jones gave Milligan back a one-point advantage, but it was answered only eight seconds later as Keila Formont scored for the Lady Lions.
Robinson responded with the feed from Price for Milligan at the 25-second mark before two Bryan free throws with 10 seconds left set up the finish by the Buffaloes.
After falling out of the national top-25 poll for the first time in six weeks and dropping to second in the conference standings for the first time all season after Milligan’s loss to Point University last Saturday, the Buffs came out on fire, racing to a 32-point first quarter and a 19-point edge. Milligan also forced six Lady Lion turnovers in the first 10 minutes while nabbing four steals, sinking six 3-pointers and shooting 55 percent.
The crux of Milligan’s advantage in the first quarter came due to a 15-0 run featuring three 3-pointers in total and seven points from Jones, who finished with 22 at the half. Jones also accounted for half of the Buffs’ eight threes in the first half while Barnett had two of them. Milligan would go on to take advantage of three more steals on five more Bryan turnovers in the second quarter before the Lady Lions run in the third and fourth.
Wednesday’s two-point victory marks the Buffs’ second one-possession win of the season over the No. 23 ranked team in the country this season and second-one possession win over the Lady Lions. In addition to its one-point win over No. 17 Bryan over a month ago, Milligan is now 3-0 against top-25 teams by a combined margin of victory of only six points.
Billingsby, the reigning AAC Player of the Week, led Bryan with 21 points and 12 boards for the game’s only double-double, while Shaver and Erisha Talley both had 11 points. Talley also added eight boards while Formont had nine points and Amber Levi had eight.
Next up, Milligan returns to the Steve Lacy Fieldhouse on Saturday, Feb. 19, for senior day against Columbia College at 2 p.m. as the Buffs go for their eighth AAC sweep of the season. Then, the AAC tournament kicks off from Wednesday, Feb. 24, until Saturday, Feb. 27, with the Buffs playing for the first time on Thursday, Feb. 25.