By John Gotto
Guard Dominique Hagans (SR/Lexington, Ky.) posted a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds, as the Union College men’s basketball gutted out their ninth consecutive victory at Milligan (Tenn.) on Wednesday night, 79-74, in a battle between the top two teams in the Appalachian Athletic Conference.
With the victory, Union grabbed sole possession of first place in the AAC standings, improving to 18-4 overall and 11-1 in the AAC. Milligan had a five-game winning streak snapped in the loss, falling to 15-6, 10-3 in the AAC with the defeat.
To open things, Milligan came out on fire, grabbing a quick 16-4 lead in the first four minutes of action off the heels of four straight made three-pointers. Union, however, clamped down on the defensive end the rest of the half, not allowing the Buffaloes to make another three the rest of the way.
For most of the half, Union had to play catch-up from the Milligan lead, but slowly began to chip away at it. Finally, with four minutes left, the Bulldogs tied the game for the first time on the night at 27-27. Seconds later, the Bulldogs grabbed the lead for the first time since early in the half at 30-29 after a Fitzgerald White (SR/Miami, Fla.) three.
From here, both teams continued to wrestle with the lead, but it was Milligan who went into the half up by just a single point at 39-38 going into intermission.
The first 10 minutes of the second half was frustrating for Union, as seemingly every time they tied the game or took a small lead, Milligan went on a spurt to grab the lead back. This trend continued well into the period, and with just 5:50 to go in regulation, the Buffaloes held a 61-56 lead.
There, Tyler Wagner (SR/Corbin, Ky. ) knocked down a big three-pointer to cut the lead to 61-59, then after a White lay-in with five minutes left, Union had knotted the game up at 61-61. The teams wrestled back and forth with the lead for the next two and a half minutes, with the game finally coming to a head knotted up at 69-all with 2:40 left.
Here, the Bulldogs took control of the contest.
On Union’s next possession, Deante Johnson (SR/Cincinnati, Ohio) knocked down a jumper to give the Bulldogs a 71-69 lead. Followed by a defensive stop, Hagans raced down the floor on a fast break and jammed one home with 1:14 to go, giving Union a 73-69 lead.
After Milligan missed a pair of free throws, Hagans was fouled and knocked down two big free throws, extending the Union lead out to 75-69. The Buffaloes once again came up empty in their next trip down the floor, and after two more Hagans free throws, Union had pulled ahead 77-69 with 38 seconds left.
The Buffaloes, however, did not go away quietly, as a three-pointer and a pair of free throws (along with a pair of missed free throws by the Bulldogs), cut the Union lead all the way down to 77-74. After Union missed two more free throws, the Buffaloes had the ball with 10 seconds left, down by three.
However, the Bulldog defense came up big, immediately forcing a Milligan turnover. On the inbound, Michael Bueter (SO/Fort Thomas, Ky.) was fouled, and calmly nailed two free throws with eight seconds left, putting Milligan away for good on the evening.
Overall, Hagans took control of the game late, matching his season-high with 20 points. It was also Hagans’ second double-double of the year, and his seventh double-digit scoring night in nine games played.
Elsewhere, Johnson had 14 points, White added 12 points (with seven rebounds and five assists) and JD Tucker (JR/Charleston, S.C.) returned to the starting line-up after nursing an injury the last few games to score 11 points.
Milligan was led in the loss by Mickey Woods, who poured in a game-high 26 points.
By the Numbers
- ¥ Since losing to Milligan on Dec. 1, Union has won eight games in a row in AAC play. Also, dating back to last season, the Bulldogs have now won 19 of their last 21 AAC regular season contests.
- ¥ Union continues to boast a perfect 8-0 record in road AAC games on the 2014-15 season. The Bulldogs only go on the road one more time on the year in AAC play (Feb. 18 at Bryan (Tenn.)).
- ¥ Tonight’s win was Bulldog head coach Kevin Burton‘s 200th at a four-year institution. Burton is in his 10th season in 2014-15 coaching at a four-year school and is 281-141 in 14 total seasons as a head coach.
- ¥ On the evening, the lead changed 18 different times between the Bulldogs and Buffaloes, and was tied on 10 different occasions, as well.
The Bulldogs open up a six-game homestand on Saturday, hosting Tennessee Wesleyan in another AAC contest. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.