The nationally second-ranked Drury Panthers will play host to No. 16 Wisconsin-Parkside in a matchup of Great Lakes Valley Conference division leaders when the two hook up Thursday in a 7:45 p.m. tipoff at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.
The contest between the Panthers (20-1, 12-1 in the GLVC West) and Rangers (19-3, 12-1 in the East) expects to carry heavy NCAA-II Midwest Regional seeding implications on down the road as defending national champion Drury guns for a chance to host the post-season tourney at The O’ for a second straight year.
Thursday’s game with Parkside – on the annual “Pink Out Night For Breast Cancer Awareness” – gives coach Steve Hesser’s Panthers a chance to avenge their only loss at The O’ in their last 35 games. Parkside defeated the Panthers 90-88 in overtime on January 5, 2013, snapping what was then a 13-game home winning streak for DU.
The Panthers have won 21 consecutive contests at The O’ since that night, when the Rangers saw a 20-point lead early in the second half slip away as DU forced overtime, but came up short in the extra period. Parkside shot 63 percent from the field in that contest – the best shooting night ever by an opponent in the four-year history of The O’ – and overcame 28 turnovers (18 after halftime) to snag the road victory.
Drury has won 43 of its last 44 games overall, including road victories last weekend at McKendree (78-74) and Illinois Springfield (66-59), securing an eighth 20-win season in 10 years at the helm under Hesser. The No. 2 ranking in this week’s NABC/Division II national poll is also the highest for the Panthers in the program’s history; DU was No. 7 in the NABC’s final poll in mid-March last season before its late-season push to its first NCAA-II national championship.
The Panthers are riding a nine-game winning streak since their only setback (85-77 on Jan. 7 at then-No. 2 Bellarmine), while coach Luke Reigel’s Parkside Rangers have won 12 of their last 13 games, the lone blemish an 82-60 loss at currently fifth-ranked Indianapolis on February 1. In that game, UW-P made just 3 of 21 attempts from 3-point range, shot 38 percent from the field for the game and was outscored by 11 points in each half by the Greyhounds, who fell 83-69 at The O’ on January 5.
Parkside features one of the league’s top players in 6-foot-9 junior Zygimantas Riauka, who averages 16.2 points and ranks second in the GLVC in rebounding (9.2 per game) and blocked shots (2.05 per game) and fourth in FG percentage (.643). He’s one of four Rangers scoring in double figures for the nation’s leader in FG percentage (.528), a distinction Drury (currently fourth at .523) held two weeks ago.
Sophomore point guard Kameorn Bundy averages 18.4 points and junior forward Cameron Adams adds 17.1 points and 6.2 rebounds to pace the Panthers. Senior post Ian Carter adds 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds and has moved into the No. 2 slot on DU’s all-time shot-blocking list with 108. He needs six more to surpass Kevin Wells (113 from 1989-94).
Thursday’s game can be heard on JOCK 98.7 FM (streamed live at www.jock987.com) and will be televised live by Mediacom Connections 22. It’s also available in a live, PPV webcast ($6.95) at www.drurypanthers.com/showcase.
Drury will conclude its final regular season homestand by facing Lewis in a 3:15 p.m. GLVC tipoff on Saturday. It’s Homecoming and Senior Day for the Panthers, with Carter, Lonnie Boga, Shane Rudman and Mael Amenyedzi being honored in pregame ceremonies. The No. 9 DU Lady Panthers and No. 15 Lewis Flyers will square off at 1 p.m. prior to the men’s game.