A 3-pointer by Ryan May at the buzzer lifted No. 10 Montevallo to a 77-74 come-from-behind win over Columbus State Saturday in the Cougars' Peach Belt Conference opener at The Lumpkin Center.
"I thought our guys showed a lot of poise and confidence against one of the best teams in the conference over the past few seasons in Montevallo," said Columbus State men's head coach Robert Moore. "We just have to do a better job of closing out games."
Columbus State (6-2, 0-1) -- which was seeking its first win over a ranked opponent since December 2009 -- led 48-32 with 14:57 to go in the game after a layup by DeAngelo Kirkland, but the Falcons (8-0, 1-0) -- who were the runner-up in the NCAA Tournament last season -- didn't go away quietly.
Over the next 13-plus minutes, Montevallo used dunks, free throws and timely 3-pointers to climb its way back into the game before tying things up at 74 with 1:32 remaining on a putback by Da-Juan Cooper.
After a series of missed shots and turnovers by both teams, Columbus State had the ball with 28.1 seconds to go and the shot clock off. However, a turnover by the Cougars gave Montevallo the ball back with 26.9 seconds remaining.
Following a timeout, Montevallo's Troran Brown dribbled the time down before driving to the basket.
Off-balance, he managed to find May in the right corner and May's fadeaway 3-pointer found the bottom of the basket right as the buzzer went off, shattering the Cougars' hopes of an upset.
"After the game, I told our guys that we have to work on executing in offensive situations at the end of the game," said Moore, whose team went the final 4:14 of the game without a field goal.
"It wasn't even the last turnover that bothered me the most. It was all of the trips where we came down and shot too early or didn't get a shot off at all. We have to do a better job of managing the end of the game."
For the first 30-plus minutes of the game, Moore couldn't have asked for much of a better effort from his team. Montevallo raced out to a 12-2 lead in the first 5:13 of the game, but Columbus State went on a 25-6 run -- including scoring 18 straight points -- to open up a 27-18 advantage with 6:46 to go before halftime.
The Falcons tried to chip away at CSU's lead, but a late burst by the Cougars sent them into the locker room with a 38-28 lead.
"I told the guys before the game that we were going to have to come out and weather the storm early on," said Moore.
"I told them it was going to be like a heavyweight fight and we could bow down or we could fight back and we fought back and played our best basketball of the season until the end of the game."
The Cougars' Kenney Funderburk led all scorers with 24 points (on 10-of-18 shooting) and five rebounds.
Kirkland had nine points and 10 rebounds, B.J. Battle had nine, three rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots, R.J. Sessions pitched in eight points, three rebounds and two steals, Shane Heyward had eight points and six blocked shots and Nick Turner pitched in seven points, four assists and three rebounds for CSU. Heyward's six blocks are the most in a game for a Cougar player since Darius Mcknight blocked seven shots against Georgia Southwestern in February 2011.
Cooper and Brown both had 17 points to pace the Falcons, with Cooper adding nine rebounds and Brown tossing in six assists and four rebounds. Shykeem Jackson had 14 points, and Ed'Lexus Collier chipped in 11, five rebounds, two assists and two steals for Montevallo.
Columbus State is back in action Tuesday, when the Cougars host Clayton State (4-2, 0-1) in another Peach Belt Conference game. Clayton State lost its PBC opener to Georgia Southwestern, 62-56, in Morrow Saturday.
MONTEVALLO (8-0, 1-0 PBC)
Da-Juan Cooper 8-14 1-4 17; Troran Brown 6-19 2-2 17; Shykeem Jackson 5-9 0-0 14; Ed'Lexus Collier 5-11 1-4 11; Ryan May 3-8 0-0 8; Orlando Brazier 3-6 2-2 8; Darius Stowers 0-3 2-4 2; Silas Mills 0-1 0-0 0; Larry Slaughter 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 30-73 8-16 77.
COLUMBUS STATE (6-2, 0-1 PBC)
Kenney Funderburk 10-18 2-2 24; DeAngelo Kirkland 3-10 3-4 9; BJ Battle 3-9 2-2 9; R.J. Sessions 3-4 0-0 8; Shane Heyward 3-8 2-4 8; Nick Turner 3-8 0-0 7; Jermaine Morgan 1-4 3-4 5; Brandon Dawson 2-2 0-0 4; Derrick Spear 0-1 0-0 0; Jahmad Saleem 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-64 12-16 74.
Montevallo 28 49 -- 77
Columbus State 38 36 -- 74
3-point goals--Montevallo 9-24 (Shykeem Jackson 4-7; Troran Brown 3-9; Ryan May 2-4; Darius Stowers 0-1; Ed'Lexus Collier 0-3), Columbus State 6-19 (R.J. Sessions 2-3; Kenney Funderburk 2-4; Nick Turner 1-5; BJ Battle 1-5; Derrick Spear 0-1; DeAngelo Kirkland 0-1). Fouled out--Montevallo-None, Columbus State-None. Rebounds--Montevallo 41 (Da-Juan Cooper 9), Columbus State 40 (DeAngelo Kirkland 10). Assists--Montevallo 13 (Troran Brown 6), Columbus State 11 (Nick Turner 4). Total fouls--Montevallo 11, Columbus State 12. Technical fouls--Montevallo-None, Columbus State-None. A-555 Montevallo is ranked No. 10 in the NABC Division II Top 25