MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. (Jan. 28, 2015) — The excitement and intensity of the final three minutes certainly lived up to the billing, but in the end, it was the Union College Bulldogs who outlasted the Milligan College men’s basketball team, 79-74, in the Appalachian Athletic Conference battle for first place Wednesday night.
With the loss, Milligan snapped a five-game winning streak and remained in second place in league standing with a record of 15-6 (10-3 AAC). The Buffaloes now stand half a game ahead of Truett-McConnell College (9-3 AAC) and will look to even the two-game season series with the Bears in their next matchup. Union (18-4 11-1 AAC) won its ninth straight and is now in control of its own destiny.
Heading into Wednesday night, Milligan and Union were both receiving votes in the top-25 poll after spending the entire month of January battling to get ahead in a tight top tier of the conference race. And with the last meeting ending in a 70-69 Milligan victory, much was at stake for both teams.
The game featured 10 ties and 17 lead changes, the last of which came a few seconds outside the two-minute mark when a basket underneath from Union’s Deante Johnson gave the Bulldogs a 71-69 lead. His basket started an 8-0 run where Union converted free throws to go ahead 77-69 with 38 seconds left. However, with one final gasp, Milligan trimmed the lead back to a single possession after a Mickey Woods 3-pointer and pair of free throws on back-to-back possessions made it 77-74.
The Buffaloes also managed to get the ball back still facing a three-point deficit but could not convert on their final possession.
Woods scored a game high 26 points, marking the second consecutive game the senior crossed the 20-point barrier. He added six assists and five rebounds. Julian Bailey joined Woods in double figures with his third double-double of the season consisting of 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Milligan sprinted out of the gates with a 16-4 run to open the game. During that four-minute stretch, Kurt Brooks, Mike Woods Jr. and Woods combined for a 4-for-5 effort from 3-point territory. Milligan finished the game, however, 5-of-17, converting only one other triple, Woods’ final basket that brought the game to 77-72 with 34 seconds left.
Milligan used the fast start to lead for all but six possessions in the first half. Woods was already in double figures with 11 points, four assists and three rebounds when Milos Petrovic gave the Buffs a 39-38 lead to close out the first 20 minutes. In the second half, neither team went ahead by more than five until the final minute.
Union’s Dominique Hagans led the Bulldogs with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Three others reached double figures, including Deante Johnson who had 14. Johnson scored 25 in the previous meeting between Union and Milligan.
In Appalachian Athletic Conference play, Union has an average margin of victory of over 21 points and has had only four games decided by fewer than 10 points. Milligan accounts for two of those decisions.
With the women hosting Columbia College on Saturday, Jan. 31 back here at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse, the Milligan men have the weekend off from competition. Their next opponent will be Truett-McConnell College (14-8, 9-3 AAC) on the road next Wednesday, Feb. 4. Truett-McConnell handed the Buffs their first conference loss of the season on Dec. 3, winning 78-72 in overtime. Milligan returns home on Wednesday, Feb. 11 against Reinhardt University.