MONTEVALLO, AL – A three-pointer from the right side by sophomore Khayani Chandler with 48 seconds left provided to be the go-ahead bucket and unbeaten and 15th-ranked Francis Marion University iced the game with late free throws en route to a 61-58 win over the University of Montevallo, Thursday evening (Dec. 17) in the Peach Belt Conference opener for both women's squads.
Francis Marion improves to 9-0 overall and 1-0 in the PBC, while equaling the third-best start in program history. Both the 1998-99 and the 2008-09 teams opened their seasons by winning their first nine contests. Only the 1980-81 Patriots team (12-0) and the 1984-85 squad (11-0) won more games to start a season.
However, the Patriots showed some rust against the Falcons after an eight-day break for exams. Improved three-point shooting, offensive rebounding, and a second-half defense that forced 11 turnovers provided crucial in the FMU come-from-behind victory. Francis Marion held a 22-4 advantage on the offensive glass that resulted in a 15-2 lead in second-chance points. After committing 10 first-half turnovers, FMU turned the ball over only twice in the final 20 minutes and the Patriots owned a 23-8 edge in points-off-turnovers.
Francis Marion will conclude its pre-Christmas portion of the schedule with a PBC game at Clayton State University on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.
Chandler led Francis Marion on Thursday with 15 points and six rebounds coming off the Patriot bench. Senior 5-11 forward Alaysia Watts posted her third double-double of the season with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while junior guard Victoria Dye and sophomore forward Briana Burgins each added 10 points. Burgins also hauled down eight rebounds.
Courtney McKenzie led Montevallo (3-5, 0-1) with 15 points and 16 rebounds, while Katherine Goldsby and Ashley Dunstan each netted 13 points.
Francis Marion scored the game's opening seven points and led 15-12 at the end of the first quarter. A basket by Burgins to start the second period extended the margin to 17-12, but the Falcons answered with an 11-4 run to take a 23-21 advantage midway through the quarter. A three-pointer by Chandler knotted the score at 26-26 and that would prove to be the halftime score.
A three-pointer by Dye to begin the third quarter gave FMU a 29-26 lead, but Montevallo scored eight straight points to go up 34-29. The Patriots responded with six consecutive points to regain the lead at 35-34, but Montevallo held a 41-39 lead entering the final quarter.
The Falcons held their largest lead at 47-41 with 7:09 left following a jumper by McKenzie. The margin was four, 56-52, entering the final two minutes. A stick-back bucket by senior guard Camille Dash cut the deficit to two with 1:23 on the clock and then Chandler drainer her three-pointer from in front of the Patriot bench to give FMU a 57-56 advantage with 48 ticks left.
Following a Montevallo miss, Watts made one-of-two free throws with 21 seconds remaining to expand the margin to 58-56. On the ensuing possession, FMU junior point guard TeTe Flowers came up with a steal and made two free throws with nine seconds remaining to cap an 8-0 spurt that left Francis Marion ahead 60-56.
Tori Pharr scored for Montevallo on a layup, but Chandler made one-of-two charity tosses with one second left and the Falcons were left with but an unsuccessful full-court heave as the final horn sounded.
Francis Marion shot 28.9 percent for the game, but did manage 9-of-24 from three-point territory, and made 8-of-13 free throws. Montevallo finished at 48.9 percent, was 4-of-11 from long range, and made 8-of-10 free throws.