by Ed Beach
The Drury Panthers fought off a Rockhurst rally in the second half and won their fifth straight with an 80-72 win over the Hawks at Mason-Halpin Field House in Kansas City, Missouri, on Thursday.
Drury improved to 16-7 and 9-6 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference while Rockhurst fell to 14-9 and 10-5 in the league.
The Panthers got off to a quick start and led 19-6 nine minutes into the game and owned a 39-29 lead at halftime.
After Drury stretched the lead to 15 early in the second half, the Hawks made a charge. Rockhurst guard Chris Hamil scored 12 points in a six-minute span, and the Hawks pulled within a point of the lead three different times down the stretch.
The Panthers never relinquished their lead, however, and held off the Hawks for their first road win since Jan. 18.
“The thing I was most proud of was, at the start, was the competitiveness and the physicality with which we played,” said Drury head coach Steve Hesser. “Those are two areas that we’ve had to work on. So it was good to go on the road and beat a good team and a physical team that was coming off of a big win last week.”
Conley Garrison led the Panthers with 21 points and added seven rebounds. Senior Lane Duncan came off the bench and matched career highs in both scoring and rebounding with 14 points and eight boards. Obi Okafor added 12 points on 6 of 7 shooting from the field.
“Lane came in and was the energizer bunny,” added Hesser. “He came up with big plays down the stretch with a couple of offensive boards and some cuts.”
After Rockhurst pulled to within one for the third time, 67-66 with 5:06 remaining, the Panthers answered with an 8-0 run that included lay-ups by Duncan on back-to-back possessions.
Drury hit 57 percent of their shots going 33 for 58 from the field. They out-rebounded Rockhurst 38-25 and owned a 16-3 advantage in second-chance points. The Panthers also outscored the Hawks 44-14 in the paint with the DU bench outscoring Rockhurst’s reserves 26-6.
Chris Hamil’s 26 points led the Hawks. Rockhurst shot 42 percent going 22 for 52 from the field.
Drury continues the road trip on Saturday when they play William Jewell for 3 pm game in Liberty, Missouri.