Posted: Sunday, 17 March 2013 10:19PM

Drury cruises past Michigan Tech; Advances to regional final



Springfield, MO (Drury Athletics)  -- Alex Hall scored 23 points, including 11 points in the first four minutes of the game to get Drury off to a quick start, and the top seed Panthers defeated fourth-seed Michigan Tech 76-62 to reach Tuesday's NCAA-II Midwest Regional finals at the O'Reilly Family Event Center.
 
The Panthers (27-4) will take a 19-game winning streak into their 7 p.m tipoff against third-seed Bellarmine (24-7), which upset No. 2 seed Southern Indiana 78-55 in Sunday's other semifinal.
 
Drake Patterson added 11 points and Brandon Lockhart had 10 points and nine assists for Drury, which has reached the Sweet 16 for just the program's second time in history – the other in 2004, when the Panthers lost to Northwest Missouri State in a regional final in Stephensville, Texas.

Hall hit a 3-pointer just 12 seconds into the game, added another 56 seconds later and had scored 11 points to put the Panthers up 13-4 just 3:52 into the game before the Huskies (21-9) knew what had hit them. 

Michigan Tech rallied to cut it to four on a couple of occasions, the last at 17-13 with 11:38 to go, but star senior center Ali Haidar picked up his second and third fouls in the next four minutes and went to the bench for the half. Drury capitalized, pushing its lead to 41-28 by the intermission break.

The Huskies tried to rally early in the second half, cutting it to 10 (46-36) with 17 minutes to go, but could get no closer as the Panthers eventually drew it back out to a 19-point lead (61-42) with nine minutes to play and finished off their visitors from Houghton, Mich., from there.

The Panthers made 59 percent of their shots (16 of 27) in the first half, and finished at 54 percent (28 of 52) for the game.

Haidar finished with 13 points, 12 below his season average. Junior guard Austin Armga kept the Huskies in it by scoring 21 points, including 14 in the first half.

"I thought we got off to a great start," Drury coach Steve Hesser said. "I thought we really locked down defensively and I thought our bigs did a good job of fighting for position with their big guy ... and if he did get it, we had someone on the catch for the double. I thought our perimeter (defensive) guys rotated very well and helped us get some stops early."

Michigan Tech coach Kevin Luke said Drury's quick start forced his Huskies to try to roll with Haidar with two fouls just to try to keep it close in the first half, a strategy that backfired when he picked up his third with more than seven minutes  to go. It was only the second game this season that Haidar developed first-half foul trouble.

"It makes a big difference because so much of our offense is through him," Luke said.

"Compliments to Drury ... they came out and played harder than we did at the beginning of the game. Playing a team that well-coached and that disciplined and that hungry to be successful got us early. It's not because our guys weren't trying, it's because (Drury) was that good tonight.

"If you want to be at this level, you've got to learn from every situation. And certainly, we should take a lesson out of this game as far as what it takes to play at that level to be competitive."

The Drury-Bellarmine game is a rematch of the Deaconess GLVC Tournament semifinals last weekend in Evansville, Ind., where the Panthers came away with a 69-62 victory. 

Bellarmine will be playing for an opportunity to go home for more basketball - the NCAA-II Elite Eight will be played in Louisville, Ky., at Freedom Hall on March 28 and March 30.

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