HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Freshman Devorice Milbry scored a career-high 15 points, sophomore Kriston Beasley added 12 and the Wallace State men’s basketball team prevailed 66-61 over Wabash Valley (Ill.) College in the opening night of the Comfort Suites New Year’s Classic at Tom Drake Coliseum on Friday.
Wallace State, which was playing only its second home game of the season, doubled the Warriors score over the final 3:44 and held on for the victory.
“We’ve talked about a fresh 2015. We’ve started out 1-0 and every night is a one-game season. We’ve got to do whatever we can to win each night,” said Wallace State coach John Meeks, whose club has endured some attrition over the holiday break. “Our guys were excited to be back at home, especially since we’ve got some great teams in town. This is a fun classic, featuring a lot of great competition.”
Milbry, a 6-foot-5 guard from Huntsville, entered the night averaging only 2.6 points before exploding against Wabash Valley. Among his 15 points, Milbry nailed three 3-pointers and easily eclipsed the previous high of seven points he established on Dec. 11.
“With Dante Battle being out, Devorice knew he had to step up and play. We’ve challenged him all week and told him he needed to be ready to go,” Meeks said. “Sometimes guys who have played a lesser role throughout the season have a mentality that one mistake is going to cost them minutes. Devorice has learned that he has to play through it and fight to make a turnover on the offensive side result in a stop on the defensive end.”
Wallace State (9-7), which had also been idle since Dec. 19, jumped out to 19-7 advantage over the opening eight minutes of the game. Wallace State’s Jacob Barrett, who finished with 11 points, extended the lead to 21-9 with a bucket at the 10:52 mark.
From there, the Lions maintained a double-digit cushion throughout the entire first half. Milbry capped the strong first half with a 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining, giving Wallace State a 33-20 advantage at intermission.
Milbry stayed hot from behind the arc. He nailed 3’s on consecutive possessions in the opening minutes of the second half, pushing Wallace State’s lead to 39-22 with 17:03 to go.
Wallace State led 49-34 with 10:29 remaining before Wabash Valley made its strongest push of the game.
Wabash Valley’s Mike Donaldson converted a 3-point play with 4:13 remaining to cut Wallace State’s lead to 56-53, and Denzel Smith added another 3-point play on the Warriors’ following possession to tie things up at 56 with 3:44 left.
On Wallace State’s ensuing possession, forward Immanuel King made the back end of a pair of free throws, reclaiming a slim 57-56 lead for the Lions with 3:30 left.
Wallace State never relinquished the lead again. Beasley drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:18 left to give the Lions a 60-56 advantage. Beasley, Barrett and Kylen Butler then sealed the win over the final two minutes, combining to hit six free throws.
Butler finished with seven points for Wallace State while Sidney Knox chipped in with six.
Donaldson led Wabash Valley with 15 points. Smith added seven.
Earlier on Friday, during the women’s portion of the tournament, Lakeland College defeated Snead State, 68-55, and No. 21 Shelton State knocked off the No. 23 Wabash Valley Lady Warriors, 88-67.
In Friday’s other men’s game, Richard Bland College was an 80-54 winner over Snead State.
The tournament continues Saturday with a pair of women’s and men’s games.
On the women’s side, Shelton State plays Lakeland College (Alberta, Canada) at 11 a.m., and No. 24 Wallace State plays Wabash Valley at 1 p.m.
In the men’s bracket, Snead State plays Wabash Valley at 3 p.m., and Wallace State hosts Richard Bland College, the No. 5 team in NJCAA Division II, at 5 p.m.
For more information about Wallace State athletics, visit wallacestate.edu.
Wallace State Community College
P.O. Box 2000, Hanceville, AL 35077
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Visit us online at www.wallacestate.edu