HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – The 22nd-ranked University of Montevallo men's basketball team (29-7) held fourth-ranked Bellarmine University (29-4) scoreless over a seven minute plus stretch in the second half to open up a double-digit lead and eventually win, 79-72. The win advances the Falcons to their first NCAA Division II National Championship game. The Falcons will face #12 Western Washington University on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. (EST). The game will be broadcast live on CBS.
The Falcons were led by senior D.J. Rivera (Philadelphia, Pa./Binghamton University) who opened the game with a three and went on to score 23 points, grabbed nine rebounds and make three assists. Junior Drico Hightower (Augusta, Ga./Angelina College) had 13 points and four rebounds while junior Jonas Brown (Tifton, Ga./Tift County) chipped in 13 points off the bench including three, three-pointers.
Senior Antoine Davis (Washington, D.C./College of the Desert) had 12 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Bellarmine was led by Chris Dowe who scored 18 points and had nine boards. Jeremy Kendle added 16 points, five assists and five rebounds while Braydon Hobbs had 13 points, five assists and five rebounds.
The Falcons shot 54.5 percent from the field in the game including 50.0 percent from three-point range. UM struggled from the free throw line throughout the game hitting just 48.3 percent from the charity stripe.
The Knights shot 45.9 percent from the field including 36.7 percent from three-point range. Bellarmine made just eight trips to the free throw line while knocking down five.
UM dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Knights 43-28. UM also controlled the paint out-scoring the Knights 44-16 on the inside.
Rivera opened the game with a three-pointer on the Falcons first possession but the Knights answered with a two from Kendle and a three from Hobbs. A Ryan May (Fayetteville, N.C./Trinity Christian) three-pointer ended the small run and gave the lead back to the Falcons. BU then went on a 7-1 run to retake the lead again. The Knights would hold the lead until a Brown three-pointer at the 7:33 mark put the Falcons ahead 21-19. Both teams traded baskets on the next few possessions and then BU began to pull away again taking a five-point lead on a tip-in at the 4:49 mark. Another Brown three-pointer with 3:06 to play tied the game at 31. After a 5-0 run by the Knights the Falcons closed out the half with four-straight points from Hightower to close the half down 36-35.
BU shot 57.7 percent from the field including 55.6 percent from three-point range. The Knights hit just 1-of-3 from the free throw line.
The Falcons shot 52.0 percent from the field including 71.4 percent from three-point range. UM was 4-for-8 at the free throw line in the first half.
The Knights opened the second half like the Falcons did in the first by hitting a three to take a four-point lead. UM answered with a two and the two teams traded baskets for the next two possessions. A small 5-0 run by the Knights extended their lead to seven with 17:13 to play. UM responded with eight-straight points capped off by a dunk from junior Marvin Fitzgerald (Milwaukee, Wisc./North Carolina Central) to give UM a 47-46 lead.
UM slowly worked its way to a six-point advantage at the 10:36 mark but an 8-4 run cut the Falcons lead to just two at the 8:32 mark. From that point on the Knights would not score a point until there was just 43 seconds left on the clock as the Falcons went on an 11-0 run to open up a 13-point advantage. The Knights made a push late as the Falcons struggled on the free throw line but the closest they would come would be five points with 11 seconds left in the game. Brown hit a pair of free throws that sealed the victory, 79-72.