Lady Buffs cut down Koalas for league win

11:21 am | January 19, 2012

Looking a bit like sad sacks as they neared intermission, Milligan’s Lady Buffaloes finished Wednesday’s contest with the game deep in the bag.

Photo by Danny Davis - The Lady Buffaloes’ Jaimee Hill slips in front of Columbia’s Kirby Norris for two of her 10 points on Wednesday at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.

Milligan got its act together following a key timeout, leading to an 87-66 conquest of Columbia in Appalachian Athletic Conference action at Steve Lacy Fieldhouse.

“We’re hoping from this point on that we can just keep rolling,” said Kayla Kelly, who totaled 18 points and four assists for the Lady Buffs. “We know that every game is going to be a challenge — you know, nobody’s easy. We know if we don’t play to the best of our ability, it will be a rough time. We look to just get through our personal hurdles. I think that’s kind of what reflects on the court, because I think we can beat anybody when we want to. I think once we get through that, we can be great.”

Hit and miss in the win column of late, the Lady Buffs (12-8) balanced their league worksheet at 4-4 by dismissing last-place Columbia (0-8 AAC, 4-15 overall).

The one-sided decision took its shape after a 10-0 Lady Fighting Koalas run shaved a 33-22 deficit to a mere point, prompting Milligan coach Rich Aubrey to call a timeout with 5:19 to go in the opening half.

Having scolded his Buffs during a timeout he took 56 seconds beforehand, Aubrey chose a different approach this time around. Weary of his team’s poor concentration and bad job of taking care of the basketball, he spoke a few words, turned over the huddle to assistant coach Michael Sampson, then stood off by the side.

“I’m trying to get our kids to kind of take responsibility for sloppy play,” Aubrey said, “and to the credit of our players, they definitely took responsibility and cleaned it up and got better from there — and finished the first half on a nice 9-0 run. Then, in the second half, we made more positive runs than we had negative runs.

“I felt like in Saturday’s game (at Tennessee Wesleyan), even though we lost, we played with really good focus and we were really intense the whole game. We’re trying to get that focus for 40 minutes, so that’s going to be a priority in every game we play.”

Alisha Mainer tallied six points and Johneshia Good drained a three in that 9-0 run, putting Milligan up 42-32 at the break.

Kelly commented on the course-changing timeout.

“Basically, we’ve been struggling to keep intensity,” said the sophomore guard following her 6-of-8 effort from the floor. “We really need to start taking it upon ourselves to finally get through little hurdles that we need to in games. It wasn’t like (Aubrey) was quitting on us. He just told us it was time for us to take personal responsibility for our actions and why things don’t go the way they’re supposed to. In that timeout, our seniors stepped up really big and just gave us words of encouragement.”

The Koalas got back within seven points (45-38) early in the second half, only to see Milligan reel off 10 consecutive points. Ashlee Price tallied seven, including a three-point play after making a steal, within the surge.

Finishing the contest with 14 points and four assists, Price summed up the victory by saying: “We were just playing hard. We really wanted to get after them on defense. So we forced a lot of turnovers (14) and got good results out of that.”

The Buffs were up by no less than 12 points the rest of the way. Jasmine Jefferson’s three-point play at the 7:01 mark ignited a 13-2 charge that supplied Milligan its thickest cushion (27 points) at 81-54. Chelsey Weddle finished the run with two free throws and a trey.

Milligan put five players in double-digit scoring, with Mainer netting 13, Weddle 12 off the bench and Jaimee Hill (4-6 FG) 10. Milligan shot a healthy 53 percent (30-57) from the field, converting 12 of 27 tries (44 percent) from 3-point range.

“The possessions when they played zone, we did a really good job of reversing the ball and getting that open three,” Aubrey said. “I don’t think we were quite as sharp against man-to-man, but it was a pretty physical game. So against a zone we were able to find gaps a little more easily, and it made it easier to execute against that. We made some good plays in the open court, too — which we’re always trying to do.”

Kelly accounted for four 3-pointers and Weddle three.

Eleven players dented the scoring column for the Buffs. While putting together a 21-11 first-half run, Milligan distributed its points among eight individuals.

“We have a bunch of scorers on this team,” Price said. “Everybody can (score). We’ve been struggling a little bit this season with having good games off-hand with that, but we’ve just got to keep fighting through it and keep looking to score. If we all do that, I think we will.”

Hill contributed five assists to the winning cause, with Mainer making three steals. Although no Lady Buff grabbed more than four rebounds, Milligan outboarded Columbia 49-32.

The lowlight for MC was its turnover total (24).

Limited to a 38-percent shooting performance (27-72), the Koalas got a big game out of Kirby Norris as she posted 29 points, five treys and eight steals. Krystal Morissette scored 10.

Milligan visits league foe Point University this Saturday. Action tips off at 1 p.m.

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