– The North Georgia men’s basketball team never trailed
Wednesday evening against the 13th-ranked team in the country,
jumping on top early and never looking back in a 68-67 victory over
previously unbeaten the University of Montevallo at BankTrust Arena
in PBC action.
The Saints improve to 7-6 on the season and 2-1 in the conference’s West Division, while the Falcons fall for the first time this season, dropping to 12-1 overall and 2-1 in the PBC West Division.
Montevallo, who moved up two spots yesterday afternoon to 13 in the latest NABC Top 25 Poll, drop their first game as a member of the Peach Belt Conference.
The last time North Georgia defeated a ranked opponent was nearly a year ago as the Saints hosted 9th-ranked USC Aiken and upended the Pacers 77-67 in Memorial Hall.
North Georgia opened the game on an 11-5 run, putting unbeaten Montevallo on their heels right out of the gate. Keldrick Coleman gave the Saints the six-point lead with a layup at the 14:18 mark of the first half.
The Saints led by as many as 13 points in the first half, margin North Georgia held at two different times in the opening period. Carl Taylor knocked down a three-pointer from the right wing with 59 seconds remaining in the half to create a 41-28 advantage, before Michael Moynihan scored in the final points of the first half, hitting a jumper in the lane to give the Saints a 43-30 halftime edge over the Falcons.
Andrew Bennett opened the second half on fire, slamming home the first bucket of the period, before knocking down a jumper to give the Saints a 14-point lead.
North Georgia held a comfortable lead until the Falcons went on a run and cut the Saints’ lead to just four as Tauras Dortch hit a pair of free throws at the 6:03 mark to make it 60-56.
Bernard Rimmer would extend the lead right back to seven however, connecting on a three-point play in the next possession before Michael Moynihan converted a driving layup to push the lead right back to nine at 65-56 with 4:01 remaining.
The Falcons clawed their way to within five points at 65-60 with less than three minutes to play as Dortch drained two more free throws, but North Georgia’s Taylor pulled down a big offensive rebound with 1:34 remaining and was fouled on the put back before knocking down one of the ensuing foul shots, sending the Saints back up by six.
Montevallo would push the ball up the floor and Jonas Brown hit a three-pointer with 1:17 left on the clock, making it a 66-63 North Georgia advantage before the Saints called a timeout with 60 ticks remaining. After running the shot clock down, Michael Moynihan was stripped driving to the basket, but a foul was called and the senior guard converted one of two free throws.
The Falcons then inched even closer as Cecil Coleman grabbed an offensive board and hit a put back to make it a two-point game at 67-65 with 32 seconds remaining. Montevallo fouled Pat Moynihan and the freshman hit the front end of a one-in-one, but missed the second, giving the home team a chance, down three points with 16.6 seconds remaining on the clock.
In the final possession of the game, pressure defense from North Georgia never allowed the Falcons to get a look as Dortch forced up a three-pointer and Coleman was there for the rebound and tip in as time expired, giving the Saints a one-point victory on the road.
North Georgia shot 50 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from long range, and 58.3 percent from the charity stripe, while the University of Montevallo was 50 percent from the floor, 46.7 percent from behind the arc, and 66.7 percent from the free throw line.
Michael Moynihan paced a pair of Saints in double figures, posting 13 points and six assists, while Bennett finished with 10 points on 5-7 shooting from the floor. Rimmer and Taylor chipped in nine points apiece, while Kindall Butler added seven points and four rebounds.
Gerald January led the Falcons with a game-high 20 points, while Dortch had 16 and Coleman finished with 12 in the losing effort.
North Georgia returns to action on Saturday afternoon, traveling to Greenwood, South Carolina, to take on Lander University in another Peach Belt Conference road game. Tip-off is schedule for 3:30 p.m. against the Bearcats.