Soaring in rarified air

Published 6:03 pm Saturday, January 2, 2010

University of Montevallo men’s basketball head coach Danny Young believes he has a pretty good team in his seventh season at the school.

If the first 11 games are any indicator, the accomplishments of his squad early in the season portend it has the potential to be a great team.

The Falcons are off to their best start in school history following a 74-58 win Jan. 2 over Lander in the first Peach Belt Conference game in school history at Bank Trust Arena.

Montevallo, ranked No. 19 in the latest National Association of College Basketball Coaches Division II poll, has won its first 11 games of the 2009-2010 season. The feat tops the 10 wins without a loss accomplished by the 2005-2006 squad, which was the first of two Elite Eight teams under Young at Montevallo.

Young isn’t quite ready to compare this team to those two teams just yet.

“There were some really good players on (the two Elite Eight teams),” Young said. “Three all-americans and they’re all pros now. It’s hard to compare them at this point.”

“But if we continue to work hard, hopefully we can be one of those teams.”

Young is enjoying the move to the Peach Belt Conference for now. Junior guard Taurus Dortch, a UAB transfer, scored a team-high 19 points to lead the Falcons (11-0, 1-0) to a win over Lander in their conference opener. Dortch nailed 8-of-12 field goals in the win.

“(The PBC) is such a good basketball conference,” Young said. “It was rated as the best conference in Division II by ESPN. We’re counting on that to continue.”

Young said Little, who leads the Falcons in scoring, is the spark plug for his team with his offensive ability.

“He’s just a huge scoring threat,” Young said. “He’s so hard to guard. He takes a lot of pressure off of us because he can score.”

Senior forward Gerald January added 16 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Senior guard Freddy Little finished with 15 points. Da’Shon Barrino led Lander (5-5, 0-2) with 13 points.

Montevallo took control of the game with a 24-4 run to start the second half. Little nailed two 3-pointers and a layup to spark a 16-0 run early in the second half and the Falcons never looked back.

“(The run) was very important,” Little said. “I just wanted to get going. If me or (Dortch) get going, it fires up our team.”

January hit a turnaround jumper to give the Falcons a 22-13 lead late in the first half before Lander rallied to cut the lead to 26-20 at halftime. January led Montevallo with 11 points and six boards in the opening half.

Little said he hopes to end his career with an Elite Eight appearance.

“(The Elite Eight teams) was like the main reason I came here,” Little said. “It feels great especially after last year. To be 11-0 is amazing.”

Senior guard Mark Plaza, who was a sophomore on the Falcons’ last Elite Eight team in 2007, said he thinks the current squad has the potential to make it back to the Division II Elite Eight.

“We’re a young team,” Plaza said. “It’s totally different than the Elite Eight team. We’re not afraid out there.”