MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. - Union College guard Tarik Smith (Tempe, Ariz) scored 15 points off the bench to lead five UC double-digit scorers, as the Bulldogs roared back in the second half to upset Milligan, 74-70, in Appalachian Athletic Conference action on Wednesday night at Lacy Fieldhouse.
With the win, Union moved to 12-13 overall on the year, 6-8 in the AAC, while Milligan fell to 17-10, 9-5 in the AAC with the defeat.
In the first half, the Bulldogs came out hot, opening a 10-point lead with eight minutes to go in the period (20-10) after Matthew Thomas (New York, N.Y.) hit a three-pointer. However, Milligan came back, ending the half on a 20-4 run to go into intermission up six over the Bulldogs at 30-24.
To start the second half, Milligan continued to ride the wave of momentum they built at the end of the first half, quickly opening up their biggest lead of the night at 10 points (34-24) just minutes into the period. Here, the Bulldogs began their comeback, gradually chipping away at the Milligan lead over the next few minutes.
UC completed the comeback at the 10-minute mark, taking their first lead since late in the first half (46-45) after a Tyler Wagner (Corbin, Ky.) three. Over the next four minutes, the lead swung back and forth, with the game being tied on three separate occasions. This led to things being knotted up at 53-all with 6:33 to go after Milligan made a pair of free throws.
It was at this moment that the Bulldogs went on a scoring run, an 8-0 spurt over a minute span that was capped by a James Strange (Pineville, Ky.) three with five minutes left. The run gave Union a 63-55 lead with 4:53 left.
Milligan, however, did not go away quietly, and took the lead with 59 seconds left at 70-69 after going on a 15-6 run. On their next trip down, Thomas was fouled, and nailed two free throws to give UC the lead back at 71-70 with 56 seconds left.
On Milligan's next possession, the Bulldogs clamped down on defense, forcing a missed three pointer to snatch a defensive rebound. Strange came down with that rebound, and was immediately fouled. Just like Thomas before him, Strange stepped up to the free throw line in a huge spot and knocked down a pair to put UC up 73-70 with 21 seconds left.
On Milligan's last possession of the game, the Buffaloes missed a three with a second to go. Thomas came down with the rebound, and made one of two free throws to put the game away, giving UC a hard-fought four point win on the road.
Overall, Smith's 15 point effort off the bench led a balanced scoring night the Bulldogs. Smith paced five other UC players to score in double-digits. Thomas ended the night with 14 points (and four assists), Wagner and Strange scored 12 points, apiece, and Tyrell Hall (Birmingham, Ala.) added 11 points.
Milligan was led in the loss by Torian Sitton, who scored a game-high 16 points.
The Union men's basketball team returns to action on Saturday, hosting UC-Clermont in an out-of-conference tilt at Robsion Arena. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.