Drury stuns Southern Indiana 65-64
Hall's running jumper sends Drury into NCAA Second Round
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Alex Hall hit a running jumper with six seconds left, and Drury held off Southern Indiana in a dramatic finish for a 65-64 victory against the second-seeded Screaming Eagles in the first round of the NCAA DII Midwest Regional here Saturday afternoon at Knights Hall.
After Hall's bucket in the paint off a great feed from Dennon Mitchell with the shot clock running out put Drury ahead 65-63, the nationally 12th-ranked Screaming Eagles worked quickly down floor for a last-second effort by Brandon Hogg.
A foul was called on Drury's JaJuan Maxwell with no time left on the clock. Hogg, needing both free throws to force overtime, made the first, missed the second and the seventh-seeded Panthers picked up their first NCAA DII Tournament win since 2004 and first for head coach Steve Hesser in five tries.
The victory also sends the Panthers (23-7) into Sunday's first regional semifinal game against No. 6 seed Ferris State, which upset No. 3 seed Wayne State 91-89 Saturday.
"It was awesome," an emotional Hesser said afterward. "We hung in there and made some plays ... I'm just really proud of them. They did it together those last couple of baskets. The winning basket was a collective play, something we struggled with at times today, and my hats off to them. They really showed some toughness today.
"They'd beaten us twice already, they were the No. 2 team in the region, and now we get to play on Sunday ... and it feels great."
A Drury team that had fallen twice to the Screaming Eagles this season and five consecutive times in their series found a way on Saturday. The most glaring difference - the Panthers were able to keep Southern Indiana's senior inside powerhouse - Mohamed Ntumba, from having his way against them, like he'd done in the two previous meetings this season.
Ntumba, who had gone for 25 points and 11 rebounds in USI's 88-74 win over the Panthers in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament semifinals last Saturday in St. Louis, finished with just five points and six rebounds on Saturday against a collapsing DU defense and his own personal foul woes.
Drury got a quick start, too, this time against Southern Indiana, racing out to a 14-3 advantage in the early going before leading 34-32 at halftime despite committing 15 first-half turnovers.
Southern Indiana would come back to grab the lead and go on top by as many as seven points, the last time on Nick Duncheon's 3-pointer with 5:02 to left for a 61-54 advantage. It looked like, yet again, the Panthers were going to play USI tough for about 35 to 37 minutes and then watch the Screaming Eagles pull away again late for the triumph.
But not this time.
Drury chipped away at that lead on a basket by Hall and a 3-pointer from Mitchell to cut it back to two (61-59) with 3:25 to go, and eventually pulled even at 63-all after a jumper by Maxwell and a layup from Brandon Lockhart, the latter coming with 2:29 left.
It stayed that way until Hall's runner that proved to be the game-winner, set up when senior Chris Parks had the presence of mind to burn a time out with 10 seconds to go when trapped on the baseline with the shot clock down to four. The Panthers came out of the huddle, Lockhart found Mitchell on the in-bounds who caught a streaking Hall for the huge bucket.
Then it was hold-your-breath mode from there, with Hogg's miss at the line sending the Panthers into celebration.
"I thought JaJuan did a great job of taking a charge there ... they called it a block, and we were fortunate they made only one of two free throws," Hesser said. "I"m just really proud of the grit these guys showed today. I thought this team prepared well this week, and when we do that ... we've got some weapons and can get some things done with this group."
Maxwell finished with 16 points to lead three Panthers in double-figures, with Mitchell finishing with 15 points and Hall with 14 points.
Andrew Taylor grabbed a team-high eight rebounds as Drury beat the Screaming Eagles - the nation's No. 1 team in rebounding margin - 35-32 on the boards, the second time in three games this year Drury had more rebounds that USI, which happened only four times all season for the Screaming Eagles.
C.J. Trotter had 21 points to lead USI, while Hogg finished with 16 points. The Screaming Eagles were held to 41 percent shooting from the field (21 of 51), and their 64 points marked only the fourth time this season they'd been held below 65 points.
USI finished 24-6.
The DU victory, coupled with Ferris State's upset of Wayne State, sets up a rematch of a Nov. 26 meeting between the Panthers and Ferris State in the Owensboro, Ky., Classic, when Drury won 88-72 over the then-24th ranked Bulldogs.
"They are a nice team, they are well-coached and it will be a big challenge for us tomorrow," Hesser said.
Drury will once again open up its Plaster Gallery banquet room at the O'Reilly Family Event Center for those Panther fans unable to make it to Louisville who'd like to watch the free, live webcast. Doors will open a half-hour before tipoff, at 3:30 p.m.
Those who want to make the trip ... there is a limited allotment of free tickets reserved and available for Drury fans at the front gate of Knights Hall for what could be a sellout crowd should top-seed Bellarmine advance with a victory on Saturday night.