HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – The 22nd-ranked University of Montevallo men's basketball team (29-8) fell just short of its first National Championship as the Falcons dropped a 72-65 decision to 12th-ranked Western Washington University (31-5) in the 2012 National Championship game. The men's basketball team is the first University of Montevallo program to advance to the NCAA Championship game. The Falcons have now advanced to the NCAA Tournament seven of the last nine years and have advanced to the Elite Eight three of the last seven seasons under head coach Danny Young.
The Falcons were led by the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, senior D.J. Rivera (Philadelphia, Pa./Binghamton University) who scored a game-high 20 points in the game. Senior Antoine Davis (Washington, D.C./College of the Desert) added 16 points, four rebounds and four assists. Junior Drico Hightower (Augusta, Ga./Angelina College) had nine points and nine rebounds while senior DeMarcus Catchings (Arlington, Texas/Cedar Valley College) added eight points and a team-high 11 rebounds.
Western Washington was led by five players who scored in double-figures. John Allen had 14 points, Chris Mitchell had 13 points and five boards, Zach Henifin had 12 points, Richard Woodworth had 10 points, nine boards and four assists while Paul Jones added 10 points off the bench.
The Vikings shot 54.0 percent from the field including 58.3 percent in the second half. They nailed 47.4 percent from three point range and were just 9-of-18 from the free throw line.
The Falcons shot 37.5 percent from the field including just 27.3 percent in the first half. UM was just 4-of-15 from three-point range including 1-of-8 in the second half. UM also struggled from the free throw line only hitting 13-of-23.
UM won the battle on the boards 39-35 and had three less turnovers than the Vikings but the hot-shooting Western Washington team prevailed in the end.
Both teams traded baskets during the opening few possessions but with the score tied 6-6 the Falcons went on a small 5-0 run with a three by Rivera and a layup from Davis. WWU ended the run with back-to-back threes to take a one-point lead. The teams traded the lead for most of the rest of the first half. With 6:36 left in the half the Vikings began a 5-0 run to take a three-point lead with 2:44 remaining. UM was able to cut the lead to two twice but that would be as close as they would get as a Rico Wilkins jumper ended the half giving WWU a 30-26 halftime lead.
WWU shot 50.0 percent from the field including 36.4 percent from three-point range. The Vikings went 0-for-2 at the free throw line.
The Falcons struggled from the field in the first half hitting just 27.3 percent from the field. They were a little better from three-point range knocking down 3-of-7. UM was nearly perfect at the free throw line hitting 5-of-6.
After a three-pointer by WWU to open the half the Falcons went on a 6-0 run to cut the Vikings lead to just one. UM took the lead two possessions later as Davis hit a layup to put the Falcons up, 36-35. UM would score on the next two possessions to take a five-point lead which would be their largest of the game.
The Vikings responded with a 6-0 run to reclaim the lead but a tip-in by Catchings ended the run and gave the Falcons back a one-point lead. Rivera gave the Falcons a three-point lead on the next possession but once again the Vikings responded with an 8-0 run to take a five-point lead of their own with 10:01 left in the game. UM was able to cut that lead to just one but the Vikings used a 9-0 run to take their first double-digit lead of the game at the 7:13 mark, 58-48.
UM chipped away at the lead and with 2:05 left in the game a free throw by Rivera and a three-pointer from junior Jonas Brown (Tifton, Ga./Tift County) cut the lead to just five. UM was able to force a turnover on the very next possession but a three by Brown missed the mark. WWU turned it over again and this time Davis hit 1-of-2 free throws to cut the lead to just four. The Vikings converted on both of their free throws to go back up by six and Rivera turned the ball over on the next UM possession. Catchings bailed the Falcons out with a steal on the other end and freshman Ryan May (Fayetteville, N.C./Trinity Christian) connected on 1-of-2 free throws to cut the lead to five.
Another turnover by the Vikings gave the Falcons another shot by a three missed the mark once again and the Vikings made them pay with a pair of free throws which ended the scoring in the game, 72-65.