EDWARDSVILLE, Ill.— 11th ranked Bellarmine used a smothering defense to defeat Drury 65-48 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference championship game on Sunday at the Vadalabene Center in Edwardsville, Illinois.
The Knights, seeded second in the tournament, held Drury to just 41 shot attempts and 44 percent shooting from the field as the Panthers went 18 for 41 in the game. Their 41 shot attempts and 48 points were both season lows.
Bellarmine improved to 26-4 and ended Drury’s 12-game winning streak as the Panthers, the number five seed in the GLVC tournament, fell to 21-11.
“Offensively, we really struggled, but you have to give Bellarmine credit on that,” said Drury head coach Steve Hesser. “They have skill at every position, and they make it tough on you. I thought we did some good things in the second half both offensively and defensively, but we just couldn’t get a shot to go down for us.”
The game was even early, but the Knights held Drury off the scoreboard from the 14:30 mark of the first half until a basket from Conley Garrison ended the drought with 6:51 remaining in the half as Bellarmine owned an 18-12 lead.
Despite the scoreless stint, Drury rallied within seven points of the lead with 1:02 remaining but Bellarmine went on a 6-0 run to end the half to go ahead 32-19 at the break.
The Knights built a 21-point lead in the second half, but Drury pulled within 13 on a Sam Marshall three-pointer with 4:40 left, only to have Bellarmine answer with a basket and free throw from Ben Weyer. The Knights then held off the Panthers to win their third-straight GLVC tournament championship.
Conley Garrison led Drury with 17 points but was the only double-figure scorer for the Panthers. Garrison was named to the All-GLVC Tournament team after the game.
Chivarsky Corbett led the Knights with 15 points while Tyler Jenkins added 14 and Daniel Ramser had 12.
“I’m proud of our guys, and I’m as proud of this team as any I’ve ever had,” added Hesser. “This group came together, started putting the ‘we’ before the ‘me’ and put together a really good second half to their season. I hope the NCAA rewards us because I think this basketball team deserves to be in the national tournament.”
The Panthers will learn if they are awarded an at-large berth in the NCAA-II Midwest Regional late Sunday night. Drury entered the GLVC tournament ranked 10th in the Midwest Region but has since won two rounds in the conference tournament and finished the season winning 14 of their last 17 games.