Top-Seeded Montevallo Holds Off Trojan Upset Bid

Box Score

MONTEVALLO, S.C. – The third-seeded Anderson University men’s basketball team trimmed a 24-point second-half deficit to just eight, but its bid for a second consecutive trip to the NCAA Elite Eight fell just short, as 22nd-ranked and top-seeded Montevallo held off the Trojans, 86-73, in the Southeast Region Championship Tuesday night at the Falcons’ Bank Trust Arena.  

Anderson was unable to defend its Southeast Region title and saw its season end at 26-6, but not before setting a new school record for wins in a season and lost for just the third time in the last 22 outings. The 14th-ranked Trojans were one of only five seeds lower than a first or second seed to reach this year’s Sweet 16.

Montevallo (27-7), ranked 22nd nationally and winners of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament, won eight of its last nine games and advances to meet nationally 13th-ranked Metro State from the Central Region in the Elite Eight in Highland Heights, Kentucky on Wednesday, March 21. 
 
In front of a raucous home crowd, Anderson survived a 6-0 opening run by the Falcons, with junior guard Denzail Jones getting AU on the scoreboard with a driving layup. Back-to-back 3-pointers from senior Tyrell McDowell, first from deep in the left corner, then from the top of the circle, gave the Trojans their first and only lead of the contest, at 8-6. But it was brief, as Montevallo’s D.J. Rivera answered on other end to tie the game for the first time as part of a 12-2 run as the Trojans misfired on its next six shots, while Montevallo was four-of-four from the field and also nailed pair of free throws to fuel the run.

The scoring drought of nearly four minutes proved costly for the Trojans, as Montevallo shot a sizzling 66.7 percent (10-of-15) from the field in the opening eight minutes of te game.

Jones’ steal and layup trimmed deficit to single digits, 26-18, with 9:04 left in first half, as the 5-foot-9 guard scored the next six points for the Trojans. Senior Stephen Cobb connected on a 3-pointer from deep in the left corner to trim the deficit to 33-27 with just less than five minutes left in the opening half, but it was as close as the Trojans would get, as UM countered with four straight and closed the half with an 11-3 run to take a 44-30 advantage into the locker room.

Montevallo edged out to a 15-point lead twice early in the second frame and led 70-46, with 8:41 on the clock, but the Trojans refused to surrender, chipping away to close within 80-72 with less than two minutes left on the strength of a 26-10 outburst.

Senior guard Nick Trull sparked the rally with a traditional three-point play, while netting 10 points during the comeback, with Jones adding eight.   

But the Falcons connected on six-of-eight from the line inside the final 88 seconds to preserve the win.

Montevallo shot 54.3 percent from the field in the decisive first half and held a 39-32  rebounding edge.
 
Jones finished with a game-high 26 points, including 15 in the second half, and dished out four assists. Trull netted 12 points, with senior Taylor Shugart chipping in 10 points and recording a team-high seven rebounds.   

The Falcons had five players reach double figures, led by Rivera’s 19. 

NCAA Southeast Regional All-Tournament Team
Most Outstanding Player: D.J. Rivera, Montevallo
Member: Antoine Davis, Montevallo
Member: Nick Trull, Anderson
Member: Denzail Jones, Anderson
Member: Jamie Vaughn, Wingate

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