MORROW, Ga. – The University of Montevallo men's basketball team (20-7, 11-5 PBC) trailed by as many as seven points late in the second half against Clayton State University (15-10, 7-9 PBC) but a heroic performance by senior D.J. Rivera (Philadelphia, Pa./Binghamton University) helped the Falcons eventually take the lead and then prevail in overtime, 77-74. Rivera scored 35 points and was a perfect 14-for-14 from the free throw line which broke a pair of UM records. Rivera broke the record for most free throws made in a game which was previously 13 held by a trio of former Falcons. He also broke the record for free throw percentage in a game with a perfect 1.000. Former Falcons Mark Plaza (2006-07, 2009-10) and Terrill Humphrey (2007-09) held the record going 13-for-13 at the line.
Rivera added four rebounds, three assists and two steals to his line as well. Junior Drico Hightower (Augusta, Ga./Angelina College) had 16 points and six boards while freshman Ryan May (Fayetteville, N.C./Trinity Christian) poured in 14 points.
Senior point guard Antoine Davis (Washington, D.C./College of the Desert) led the team with nine rebounds and also scored eight points. He led the team with four assists as well.
UM out-rebounded the Lakers 40-30 including grabbing 12 offensive boards. UM shot 44.8 percent from the field including a dismal 18.8 percent from three point range. UM also excelled at the free throw line hitting 78.6 percent of its attempts. The Lakers shot 45.6 percent from the field and 22.7 percent from three-point range. They knocked down 73.9 percent of their free throw attempts.
Both teams exchanged baskets during the opening 10 minutes of the game but with 12:02 left in the first half and the Falcons ahead 17-14 the Lakers began a 12-2 run to open up a seven-point advantage with 8:42 to play. Hightower ended the bleeding with a lay-up and just minutes later the Falcons began their own 11-0 run to take a four-point lead with 3:54 left in the first. UM held onto the lead until a CLSU three-pointer with 37 seconds left in the half tied the game at 38. UM was unable to score on its final possession of the half as the teams went into the locker rooms in a deadlock.
The second half began like the first with both teams trading baskets. Midway through the second the Lakers began to pull away as they slowly built up a six-point lead. With 3:48 left in regulation and the Falcons down 62-58 Hightower and Rivera went on their own 6-0 run to give the Falcons a 64-62 lead with just over two minutes to play. The Lakers were able to tie the game late and the Falcons had a chance for the win with under 20 seconds to play but a three-pointer at the buzzer missed the mark.
A lay-up by Davis on the first possession of overtime gave the Falcons an early lead in the extra period. The Lakers answered with a jumper of their own and then took advantage of an empty UM possession scoring on a layup to take a 69-67 lead. Rivera and Hightower once again teamed up for a 6-0 run to give the Falcons a 73-69 lead with 1:51 left in the period. The Lakers were able to cut it to within one but another Hightower lay-up pushed the lead back to three. CLSU once again cut the lead to one but Rivera answered with a pair of free throws to put the Falcons back up by three. The Lakers had one last shot with four seconds left on the clock but the half court heave missed the mark as the Falcons won, 77-74.
The Falcons will return to action this Saturday, Feb. 25 at 3:30 p.m. as they host North Georgia College and State University for Senior Night. With a win over NGCSU the Falcons will clinch the No. 1 seed in the Peach Belt Conference Western Division.