by Ed Beach
With five returning starters and 11 letter winners back from a team that went 35-1, won the Midwest Regional championship, and won their third straight conference title, the Drury Lady Panthers will face a challenging 2019-20 schedule that features nine games against teams that were in last year’s national tournament field.
The program announced their slate of games for the upcoming season and fans will get their first look at Drury’s team on Oct. 19 when the Lady Panthers host Columbia (Mo.) in an exhibition game at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.
The Lady Panthers then start the regular season with three games in the CCA Division II Tipoff Classic in Anaheim, California Nov. 1-3 at Santiago Canyon College. Drury opens the event against Simon Fraser, Canada’s only NCAA member. The British Columbia based university finished third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference last year and had a 17-11 overall record. On Nov. 2, the Lady Panthers take on West Texas A&M, a team that finished the year ranked 23rd in the nation with a 29-4 record. Drury concludes the trip with a game against Montana State-Billings, a national tournament qualifier two years ago.
Drury returns home for their first regular season game at the O’ on Nov. 11 when they host Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs were 23-7 last season and earned a bid to the NCAA-II tournament.
The Lady Panthers will again host the Oasis Hotel & Convention Center Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 29-30. All four teams in the event were national tournament qualifiers in 2019. Drury will take on the 2018 national champions, Central Missouri on Fri., Nov. 29. The Jennies went 25-7 last year and lost by three points in the second round of the national tournament to the eventual NCAA-II Runner-Up, Southwestern Oklahoma State. On Nov. 30, Drury will take on Northern Michigan in a rematch of last year’s Midwest Regional semifinals won by the Lady Panthers 78-56. Both Drury games start at 5:30 p.m. Truman State rounds out the four-team field and will play the 7:45 p.m. game on both nights.
In December, Drury will head to Lakeland, Florida for two games in the Terrace Hotel Classic on Dec. 19-20. The Lady Panthers open the event against an Eckherd College team that went 22-10 last season and received an at-large bid to the national tournament. On Dec. 20, Drury plays at Florida Southern. The Mocs won 30 games last year finishing 30-4, were the host of the South Regional, and ended the season ranked 20th in Division II.
Drury opens the GLVC schedule on Dec. 3 against Southwest Baptist at the O’Reilly Family Event Center. The game is the first of two regular season meetings against their Highway 13 Catfight foes with the other coming on Mon., Jan. 20 in Bolivar. SBU is entering their first year as a full member in the GLVC. The conference’s other newcomer, Lindenwood, makes an appearance at the O’ on Jan. 11 for Hall of Fame Day. The Lions were national tournament qualifiers last year, and the finished the season 21-8.
Other highlights on the schedule include Overflow the O’ on Sat., Feb. 8 when the Lady Panthers host Illinois Springfield. Drury’s Homecoming and Senior Day are scheduled for Sat., Feb. 29 with a 1 p.m. game against Rockhurst.
The GLVC tournament returns to Edwardsville, Illinois March 5-8 and the NCAA-II Midwest Regional is scheduled for March 13-16 at the site of the highest-seeded team.
The 2020 Elite Eight will be played March 24-27 in the Birmingham CrossPlex in Birmingham, Alabama.
Season tickets are on sale now by calling the O’Reilly Family Event Center box office at 417-873-6389.