SPRINGFIELD, Mo.— The Drury Panthers used balanced scoring and strong defense in claiming a 66-58 win over the Muleriders of Southern Arkansas on Saturday afternoon in the opening round of the DoubleTree Classic at the O’Reilly Family Event Center. Drury improved to 4-0 with the win.
The Panthers were strong defensively from the start, holding Southern Arkansas’ offense in check during the first ten minutes of play and put together enough scoring of their own to pace the action. The Muleriders struggled early, hitting on just one of their first thirteen attempts while committing 15 first-half turnovers. Drury scored the final six points of the half to hold a 26-16 edge at the intermission.
“We’ve been working on our defense,” said Drury head coach Steve Hesser. “We’re about 15th or 16th in the conference in defense, so our attention has been on trying to get better, no question.”
After falling behind by as many as 17 points in the second half, the Muleriders pulled to within five and trailed 56-51 with just over four minutes to play before the Panthers rallied to outscore the visitors 8-0 during the next two minutes to distance themselves and hold on for the win.
“We lost our focus a bit there in the second half, and they went down and made three 3’s in a row, and we had some foul trouble, but Conley (Garrison) came down and immediately hit a three, and that was big,” added Hesser.
Juniors Brandon Emmert and Cal Hartley paced the Panthers in scoring with 14 points each, while junior Garrison chipped in ten. Aaron Lucas, with a game-high 19 points led the way for Southern Arkansas, who dropped to 2-4 with the loss.
The Muleriders outrebounded the Panthers 46-28 for the contest but committed 23 turnovers to just 12 for the Panthers.
The Panthers will conclude play in the DoubleTree Thanksgiving Classic when they host Rogers State in a scheduled 3:15 pm tipoff on Saturday at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.