Las Vegas -- A valiant effort to knock off the defending NCAA-II champions fell just short on Tuesday night, as 14h-ranked Drury dropped a 72-69 decision to No. 5 Western Washington in a battle of unbeatens in the South Point Casino Holiday Hoops Classic.
Brandon Lockhart's challenged 3-pointer at the final buzzer to potentially tie it instead bounced away, sending Western Washington to 8-0 on the season and pushing its winning streak to 14 games over the past two seasons.
Drury, which moved up five spots in the NABC Top 25 Coaches Poll earlier in the day to No. 14, fell to 7-1.
Ian Carter scored a season-high 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Lockhart finished with 15 points and Alex Hall had 12 points to pace the Panthers, who led the game in its entirety for the first 25 minutes.
After Carter scored on a layup with 15:34, Drury held a 48-44 advantage. But the Vikings answered with an 8-0 run to go on top 52-48 with 12:42 left, and it was nip and tuck down the stretch from there, though the Panthers never regained the lead.
When senior guard Paul Jones scored for the Vikings inside with 4:58 to go, Drury trailed 67-61, but answered with four points from Lockhart to pull within two when a momentum switch stung the Panthers.
Sophomore forward Cameron Adams, off a nifty fast-break feed from Lockhart, slammed the ball through for a 67-all tie with 2:15 to go, but was whistled for a technical foul for hanging on the rim, a call disputed by a DU bench that thought careening Adams did it to steady himself for safety reasons.
Nevertheless, Jones hit two free throws to put the Vikings up 69-67 and squelch, temporarily, the DU rally.
Two free throws by Carter with 1:06 left pulled the Panthers back within one (70-69), and Drury got it back with 30 seconds remaining and a chance to take the lead after a defensive stop at the other end led to a shot-clock violation.
But Lockhart missed an open drive with 19.7 seconds left, WWU's Chris Mitchell grabbed the rebound and hit two free throws at the other end, setting the stage for DU's failed final 3-point try.
"I'm proud of how (we) competed in these circumstances," Drury coach Steve Hesser said. "We weren't very sharp at some things, but give Western Washington some credit for that. We didn't make some adjustments we needed to, but I really liked how they competed and fought and collectively stayed in the game."
Mitchell finished with 16 points and Allen added 15 points for the Vikings.
Drury finished with a 47-39 advantage over the taller Vikings on the boards, with Drake Patterson's seven boards and six from Lonnie Boga supporting the 11 by Carter.
The Panthers hit just 39 percent from the field (25 of 65), while Westerh Washington - one of the national leaders at 55 percent coming into the contest - was held to 33 percent (19 of 57).
Drury will conclude its two-day appearance in the South Point Holiday Classic by taking on defending Heartland Conference champion St. Mary's at 9 p.m. (CST) on Wednesday. St. Mary's (6-1) was scheduled to play West Florida in Tuesday's late contest at the South Point Arena.
""We've got to put this one behind us and learn from it," Hesser said. "We've got a tough game tomorrow, and that's a toughness thing ... we've got to come out and learn some things from this, come out and play with energy and emotion tomorrow evening against another very good opponent.
"You find out who you are when you play good people, so I'm proud of our effort."