Despite late rally, Miners beaten by defending national champion Panthers.
It was frigid outside the O'Reilly Family Events Center Thursday night and for Missouri S&T's men's basketball team, it was cold inside the building during the early stages of its contest with the undefeated defending national champions as well.
The S&T Miners made only two of their first 14 shots from the field and fell into a hole it couldn't escape, suffering a 96-86 loss in their Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) opener to third-ranked Drury despite making a spirited rally in the second half that saw them cut as many as 16 points off the Panthers' halftime lead.
S&T falls to 3-4 overall while the Drury Panthers improved to 6-0.
S&T scored the first points of the game on senior guard Bryce Foster's three-point play in the opening minute of play, but the Miners went ice cold after that and the Panthers rattled off the next 13 to take a lead they would never relinquish.
Foster hit a three-pointer at the 14:55 mark to stop the run, but Drury scored 13 more in succession and held a double figure lead for the balance of the half. It was a half where the Miners ended up connecting on just seven of their 23 field goal tries as they trailed by 25 at the intermission.
S&T made a run at the outset of the second half, scoring the first seven points on a basket by senior gaurd Nusrath Khan before senior guard Mudiaga Eruteya added a three-pointer and a putback to cut the margin to 18. With 14:28 to go, Foster drove for a lay-up to get the difference down to 16.
After the Panthers pushed the lead back to 24, S&T sophomore guard Zach Ellis' free throw at the 5:02 mark got the lead to 15, then sophomore forward Michael Nesbitt banked in a three-pointer with 4:34 to go to make it 83-71. With just over three minutes to go, freshman guard Danylo Zuikov knocked down a three-pointer to bring the Miners to within 10 at 86-76.
However, after Drury got an offensive rebound, Nick Yocum nailed a three to get the lead back to 13 and that was followed by a steal and lay-in by Sean Osler to put the margin back at 15 with 2:27 to go.
Eruteya scored 19 of his career-high 27 points in the second half, as the Miners shot 59.4 percent after the break. Foster had 19, while Nesbitt and Ellis added 11 points apiece as S&T outscored the Panthers 58-43 over the final 20 minutes.
Drury also had four players in double figures, led by Cameron Adams with 22 points and Kameron Bundy with 17. The Panthers shot 58 percent for the contest.
The Miners will host Webster - S&T's final home game prior to the holiday break - on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Billy Key Court.