“Our teams kind of mirror each other,” Drury head coach Steve Hesser said. “Their backcourt is very good (and) our backcourt is good. They like to get up and down and we like to get up and down.”
The Pacers start with their dynamic point guard Re’Mon Nelson. The five-foot-nine guard was the Peach Belt Player of the Year and Southeast Region Most Outstanding Player. He averages 13.8 points per game and 6.2 assists per game, which is good for eighth-best in the nation.
CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF THE PRACTICE
“He (Nelson) is a quick point guard. He makes the game easier for his teammates and also has the ability, like Lockhart, when he needs to go get buckets on his own,” Hesser said. “You have to give help on him because he is really going to push you in transition.”
Drury senior Brandon Lockhart will in turn look to give the Pacers fits running the show for Drury. He is just behind Nelson averaging six assists per game, which is 11th in the nation. Lockhart, who was the Midwest Region Most Outstanding Player, averages 12 points per game.
The other key part of the back court for the Pacers is six-foot junior Ronald Zimmerman. Zimmerman averages a team-high 15.1 points per game and does that averaging four made 3-pointers a game.
Drury and Aiken are two of the most prolific 3-point shooting teams in Division II as the Panthers knock down 8.3 3-pointers per game and Aiken hits 8.9 on average. The Panthers’ 42.1-percent 3-point shooting is good for third-best in the nation. Aiken’s 40.7-percent is 12th in the country.
What Aiken doesn’t have that Drury does is an All-American.
Springfield native Alex Hall and Kickapoo graduate was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-American team today. The senior leader averages 19.4 points per game and knocks down an average of 3.4 threes per game.
The All-American guard knows Drury must focus on doing the things that have brought the Panthers to this point.
“The enemy is not their team, the enemy is us,” Hall said. “If we do our stuff the Drury way we will be fine.”
With so many similarities in the backcourt, this game could come down to how the teams play down low.
“I think rebounding is going to be a key and I think being able to score inside is going to be a key,” Hesser said.
Aiken boasts six-foot-six, 225-pound Paul Larsen and six-foot-eight, 200-pound Santoine Butler, both juniors, across its front line. Both are transfers from Division I institutions. Larsen is from Mercer and Butler came from Gardner-Webb.
The call for rebounding will fall to senior Teddy Simniok (6-6, 225 pounds), junior Ian Carter (6-5, 210 pounds) and sophomore Cameron Adams (6-5, 200 pounds). That trio has pulled down 42-percent of Drury’s rebounds this season.
Drury got a practice in on the historic Freedom Hall court in Louisville, but the Panthers are not letting the 18,865-seat arena overwhelm them.
“It (the rim) is 10-foot,” Hesser said. “We have played in those kinds of arenas. I don’t see that being any factor at all.”
Drury tips off at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in Louisville, Ken. against South Carolina-Aiken.
|Drury vs. SC-Aiken Stat Comparison|
|Drury||National Rank||(Per game averages)||National Rank||USC - Aiken|
|51.2||4th||Field Goal Percentage||21st||48.3|
|34 (10.3)||Rebounds (Offensive)||36.9 (11.2)|