The Drury way is to focus on playing Drury basketball no matter the opponent.
“That is part of our philosophy,” Drury head coach Steve Hesser said. “We don’t spend a lot of time showing our players tape of our opponents. Our assistant coaches do a great job. We walk through some stuff. Since we started the playoffs going in to the conference tournament it has been let’s just be us and let’s do what we do and see what happens. It has worked for us and we are going to continue to take that same approach.”
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Metro State on the other hand takes great pride in taking the opposing team’s leading scorer and knocking him off his game.
“We call it the game within the game and it is a challenge,” Metro State coach Derrick Clark said. “We really pride ourselves in player tendencies and scouting reports. Our thing is to try and not let the known beat us.”
It is no secret the Drury senior All-American and Kickapoo graduate Alex Hall is that known. If he wasn’t on Metro State’s radar before the Elite Eight and his All-American selection last week, he found himself the center of attention in their video room after dropping 68 points in two games in Louisville last week.
Clark knows stopping completely will be next to impossible.
“I would consider him (Hall) maybe the best shooter in the country. I don’t think that is too high of praise when you look at what he has done,” Clark said. “He scores for them and we know how important it is for him to score for them. We are going to do everything we can just to slow him down. It is hard to stop great players like that. I don’t think we will totally stop him, but if we can just keep him under control.”
Metro State has been effective at slowing down the opposing team’s best scorer. Only seven times this season has an opponent’s leading scorer matched or eclipsed their season average against the Roadrunners.
The Roadrunners don't have just one player to focus on as all five of their starters average double figures.
Drury may not watch much film on opponents, but the Panthers still practice the schemes that will be thrown at them. In addition to that, Hesser feels like his team has been tested enough to withstand anything Metro State offers up.
“I don't know if we've played anybody with the whole package. But we've played against the press and we've played against some 2-3 zone and pure matchups,” Hesser said. “We’ve played 34 games. We've seen a lot. Our guys have really grown up and understand different schemes that are going to be thrown against them. So I think they'll be prepared.”
Metro State is one of the best defensive teams in terms of turnovers forcing nearly 10 turnovers on average in the first half of games this season via a press defense. In the Elite 8, Metro State faced a West Liberty team that averaged 102 points per game, which was the most in Division II by 13 full points.
The Roadrunners held West Liberty to just four points in the first 10 minutes of the game thanks to the press creating effective offense.
“You have to be good offensively. You have to be efficient,” Clark said. “We were able to score early in that game (against West Liberty) so we were able to set up our presses and slow them down. There wasn’t a lot of missed basket transition scoring. Sometimes good offense makes good defense.”
West Liberty finished with just 76 points, 27 below their season average.
Hesser knows his team is ready to take on whatever runs and defense Metro State throws at them.
“You don’t want to have a big deficit to start the game. Then you are fighting up-hill the whole way,” Hesser said. “I don’t know how it is going to start, but I feel confident our guys will come and compete and play together like they have the last couple weeks.”
A key for the Panthers will to be either tied or leading at half.
In Clark’s three years at the helm, Metro State is 65-4. When the Roadrunners are tied or trailing, that record drops to 14-13.
Drury and Metro State tip-off the Division II National Championship at 3 p.m. on Sunday in Atlanta.