by Drury Athletics
The number one ranked Drury Lady Panthers got the type of challenge they expected from the Truman State Bulldogs Saturday afternoon at the O’Reilly Family Event Center, but held off the visitors for a 72-66 win to improve to 21-0 overall and 11-0 in Great Lakes Valley Conference play.
After Truman State pulled to within three, 69-66, with less than a minute to play, the Lady Panthers used intense late-game defensive pressure and a pair of clutch free throws from junior Daejah Bernard in the closing seconds to secure the win.
It was far and away the most difficult test the top-ranked Lady Panthers had faced in their undefeated season, as the Bulldogs had answers each time Drury was able to forge margins of ten points. All-America candidate Hailey Diestelkamp once again led the way for Drury. The junior finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the season.
“I think these types of games come down the line during the season and it’s good to have this kind of challenge because in March you’re not going to have 30-point blowout wins,” said Molly Miller, Drury head coach.
Truman State (18-4, 9-3) provided the Lady Panthers with their most challenging first half of play in recent weeks, trailing 36-30 at the half, as Drury went the final minutes of the second quarter minus key players that were in foul trouble.
“It was a learning opportunity for both Hailey and Daejah,” said Miller. “When you get a quick foul you can’t come back and get that second one so quickly, because we need to have them on the floor.”
Drury jumped in front early in the contest, racing to a 13-3 lead before the Bulldogs chipped in that margin, to make it 15-11 after the opening period, despite ten first-quarter turnovers.
Truman State was able to twice pull the contest to a one-point affair midway through the third quarter, be each time Drury responded to keep the visitors from gaining the lead.
The Lady Panthers got 11 points each from sophomores Payton Richards and Emily Parker, while Brooke Bailey topped the Bulldog scoring with a team-high 22.
Drury, averaging 31 forced turnovers per game for the season was able to push Truman State into 24 miscues while committing only ten. The two teams split the rebounding battle, each grabbing 38. The Bulldogs outshot Drury 47 percent to 39 percent for the game.
Next up for the Lady Panthers is a home date against Maryville, Thursday, February 7 in a 5:45 pm contest at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.