HARROGATE, Tenn. – Carson-Newman (18-14) fought tooth and nail with second-seeded and 23rd-ranked Montevallo (25-8) in the first round of the NCAA tournament but fell to the Falcons 74-69 Saturday afternoon at Tex Turner Arena.
"To get the conference tournament championship, to get to this stage is a monumental achievement on this team's part," head coach Chuck Benson said. "We talk about giving more than is expected and I thought our guys did that throughout this year. Obviously wanted to play past round one, but our guys played with great pride and purpose today, we just came up short."
An injury changed the complexion of the game for C-N. Carson-Newman led by 11 with 5:27 left in the first half on the heels of a 13-4 C-N run and a Sawyer Williams (Owenton, Ky.) layup.
However, Carson Brooks (Knoxville, Tenn.) went down with a foot injury on the next possession. In his absence, Montevallo began chipping away at the Eagles advantage. By halftime, Montevallo had trimmed the Eagles' lead to seven, 38-31.
"Carson's absence was the turning point of the game," Benson said. "Our guys gave great effort despite that. We had our fair share of injury issues this year, for him to go down so early in this game, it definitely impacted the outcome. I wish we could have finished the game with our true lineup out there."
The Falcons outscored the Eagles 15-8 to begin the second half to tie the game at 46 on a pair of Troran Brown free throws. The Falcons would grab a 49-48 lead they would not surrender when the two-time Peach Belt Player of the Year Brown canned a 25-foot three from the right wing.
Montevallo shot 58 percent from the field in the second half and 7-for-13 from three after the Eagles held the Falcons to 34 percent shooting for the first half. Meanwhile, Carson-Newman shot 56 percent from the field in the first half, but saw that drop to 44 percent shooting in the second half. The Eagles hit 25-of-50 shots for the game compared to 44.8 percent shooting for the Falcons.
"Their perimeter players are as good as anyone in this tournament," Benson said. "For them to step up is to be expected. But we talk about poise with our guys and how to handle those situations. Our guys maintained their poise. But we weren't able to share the ball like we wanted to without Carson in the game."
The Eagles were led by Charles Clark's (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) 27 points. He went 9-for-16 from the floor and 7-of-9 from the charity stripe. Josh Rogers (Bristol, United Kingdom) reset his career high with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Williams rounded out the Eagles' double-digit scorers with 12 points. He was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field.
Brown, also the Daktronics Southeast Region Player of the Year, led Montevallo with 23 points, 16 of which came after halftime. He was 8-for-14 from the floor and 3-for-6 from beyond the arc. Brown also dished out six assists.
Shykeem Jackson added 15 points for the Falcons, all from beyond the arc. He connected on five of his seven three-point attempts. Ryan May was the Falcons final double-digit scorer. He had 11.
The Eagles outrebounded the Falcons 32-31; however, Montevallo was able to score off all eight of its offensive rebounds. The Falcons had 16 second chance points to four for the Eagles.
Montevallo advances to the second round of the NCAA tournament and will face UNC Pembroke at 5 p.m. Sunday at Lincoln Memorial's Tex Turner Arena.
For offseason updates on Carson-Newman's men's basketball program, check cneagles.com regularly and follow @cnathletics on Twitter.