Strong second half sends Buffs past VI

By Marvin Birchfield

   BRISTOL--A special mixture of good hustle and tough defense was the key to Milligan's success on Thursday night, as the Buffaloes ran wild to defeat Virginia Intermont by a final of 92-70.
   Milligan came out early in the second half to go on a 12-0 run, which gave it the momentum and took the venom and sting out of the Cobras.
   "We had to step it up or we were going to get run out of the gym, and I'm proud of my guys. It's one thing to talk about it and then do it," said Milligan coach Tony Wallingford. "I'm certainly proud of them to be able to do that against a very well-coached team, so tonight was our night, and hopefully we can duplicate it."
   The Buffaloes got off to a good start, building a 10-1 lead in the first three and a half minutes of the contest.
   Back to back three-point goals from Scott Ferguson and Eric Coggins gave Milligan a nine-point advantage with 16:35 left to play in the first half.
   Viginia Intermont rallied back to take a 15-14 lead, when Luka Hocevar converted a bucket off the transition on a 14-4 run by the Cobras.
   "We did some good things in the first half, but we also did some sloppy things like poor execution, missed blockouts, missed defensive assignments," said Wallingford. "We had to go back and reference the good things we did, and said that's what we have to duplicate every possession."
   Both clubs swapped the lead four times in the final 10 minutes of the half, but it was Virginia Intermont that took control when Jeremy Boykins nailed a three to put the Cobras ahead by five.
   Boykins led Virginia Intermont on the evening with 17 total points, while Tyrone Sanders added 16 and 11 boards.
   Virginia Intermont built its biggest lead of the night with a 40-33 margin as Chris Wise completed a three-point play down low by drawing the foul with 1:52 left in the half.
   Milligan clawed its way back to cut the deficit in half, with Todd Davis making a basket and drawing a foul on a give-and-go from Jonathon Harris.
   The Buffaloes trailed 42-38 at halftime, and the Cobras seemed to have a little advantage with their big bodies on the inside.
   "We came in at halftime and the coach just told us to step it up on defense, and that's basically what we did," said Coggins. "We started boxing out on the boards and played much better no both defense and offense."
   Milligan was a totally different team in the second half, as Milligan came out in the first minute to tie the contest off a couple of field goals from JaKeith Hariston.
   The Cobras managed to take a 46-42 lead after a foul-line jumper from Boykins, but the Buffaloes picked up the pace to reel off 12 straight points, taking a 54-46 advantage.
   "The main part of our offense is that we're a running team and very quick, so if we can get it out there and go with it, then that's what we're trying to do," said Harris.
   During the two-minute spurt, it was Coggins nailing his fourth of a game-total five three-point goals to finish with a total of 17 points.
   "I've got to give credit to my teammates. We have some good quick guards and they got me some open shots, and I just have to spot up," said Coggins.
   Rebounding his own miss, Craig Emmert drew a foul and converted a three-point play, which forced Virginia Intermont to take a time-out with 15:22 left in regulation.
   "We got our shooters like Coggins open, and when Craig came in we made sure we got the ball inside," said Harris.
   Good hustle to grab a loose ball underneath from Harris, along with a couple of treys from Coggins and Ferguson, put the Buffaloes up by an 11-point margin with eight minutes left.
   Milligan continued to stretch its advantage with a jump-hook off the glass from Harris and turnaround shot inside the paint by Bradley Blair.
   "This is definitely our best second-half effort of the season, so far," said Wallingford. "We have to build on it. We got by tonight with just playing 20 minutes. In this league, we have to be able to put together a whole 40-minute game. We're not that big or athletic, so we have to play together."
   Harris finished the night as Milligan's leading scorer by pouring in 18 points -- 12 of which came in the second half -- along with grabbing 10 rebounds.
   A pass from Ferguson to Hairston on the break pushed the lead to 77-62 with 4:35 left to play, as Milligan did an excellent job of containing the Cobras on the inside and controlling the boards.
   "Our coach said we needed to hit the boards a little harder in order to pull away, and we got leak outs and started running our offense better," said Harris.
   The Buffaloes converted nine out of their last 10 free throws down the stretch, with Michael Morrell hitting four of four.
   Milligan improves to 2-2 on the season with a victory in their first conference meeting of the year, while Virginia Intermont falls to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in conference play.
   "This is a good win for us, and we are now starting to pull together as a team, and hopefully we can get a lot more wins with this kind of effort," said Coggins.