By ANDY WOLF
ROMEOVILLE, Ill. — UF bent and broke, but battled back.
University of Findlay sophomore Anthony Masterlasco drained a 3-pointer with 41 seconds left to put the Oilers in front for a final time, and they held on for a 71-66 win over Drury University in the Division II men’s basketball tournament opener on Saturday in Romeoville, Illinois.
“It shows a couple things,” UF coach Charlie Ernst said. “No. 1, even though we had a couple of new faces compared to them in terms of starting five and so forth, we had a veteran tournament experience. Our guys have been in a lot of tight games.
“Our preparation was really good. I don’t think we overdid it. We had a solid game plan coming in.”
Drury (21-12) bowed out to the Oilers for the second straight season.
Aaron Overhiser led UF with 17 points and six rebounds. Trey Smith had 16 points.
Masterlasco, a Liberty-Benton grad, finished with nine points, one shy of his 12th double-digit scoring performance in his last 14 games.
His clutch 3-ball was his only attempt of the game from downtown and came on a night where UF finished 5 of 20 on 3-point attempts.
Drury’s Kamau Kinder had just split a pair of free throws to give the Panthers, who trailed by nine with five minutes to go, their first lead at 66-65 since the opening minutes of the second half.
Masterlasco’s look came wide-open on a kickout at the right wing with two seconds left on the shot clock. Point guard Tommy Schmock had collapsed all five Drury defenders on a drive from the left wing.
“They went to a zone then and we couldn’t run any of our zone sets, not with the lineup we had out on the floor because those guys don’t know their spots,” said Ernst, who was playing a small lineup and a unit not used to working with each other. “We went with a three-out motion look.
“Anthony did a nice job. He was in the middle of the zone and slid out. Instead of shooting a fadeaway, he shot an on-balance 3. Tommy put the ball right where it needed to be, and when you deliver an on-target pass chances of the shot going in go way up.”
Back at the other end, Drury got three looks at a 3-pointer in two possessions. None of them fell.
Trey Smith knocked down a pair of free throws to put the game away with 22.9 seconds left.
Allen Billinger scored a game-high 24 points off the Drury bench. He and Kinder (15 points) combined for the Panthers’ final 26 points of the game.
Ernst was happy with how well his team defended a Drury motion offense that’s “as active and as good a shape as any team” he’s seen all year.
The Panthers shot just 43.4 percent (23 of 53) overall, 6 of 21 from 3-point range.
The Oilers defended it so well, Ernst saw Drury take a different approach with its season on the line and trailing 59-50.
“We watched a bunch of video and never once did I see, I don’t want to call it iso-ball, but one where they give it to a certain player and try to exploit a matchup,” Ernst said. “I told our team, ‘That’s a testament to the defense we played today.’
“We didn’t play them all season, we’re not in the same league and we got Drury to the point to where they almost decided to almost iso and ball screen for Kinder and isolate that matchup.”
Kinder’s downhill, driving approach especially became unstoppable down the stretch and helped will the Panthers back in it.
The Oilers appeared to be pulling away after a 9-2 run to take their largest advantage at 59-50 with five minutes remaining.
Billinger scored on a cut after a Drury timeout and, after a UF turnover, Kinder got to the line where he hit two free throws.
Kinder got fouled three more times in the next 1:57 — all off and-ones — where he’d convert two of three.
He missed his last three-point play opportunity with 2:40 to go, but Billinger tied it at 65-65 shortly after on a 3-pointer.
Findlay turned it over again on its next possession, leading to Kinder going to the line again and 1:10 on the clock.
UF senior and leading scorer Alex White also fouled out on the play. The Midwest Region Player of the Year only played 22 minutes, tallying 11 points and four rebounds.
Findlay also limited Drury leading scorer and sharpshooter Garrison Conley (17.5 points per game) to just six points and one 3-pointer.
Ernst attributed a lot of the effort to Schmock’s defensive matchup. Schmock defended Conley in last year’s game.
“He played a little bit on his heels because of Tommy’s quickness and aggressiveness,” Ernst said.
Findlay now shifts its attention to Bellarmine, which defeated Walsh 81-61 on Saturday.
The Knights ended the Oilers’ season in 2017 as host of the Midwest Regional final before UF got them back last season in a neutral-court thriller in the semifinals.
“Just like last year, we’re probably going to have to play one of our best games of the season,” Ernst said. “Much respect to their program. They’re fun to watch; not much fun to coach against — unless you beat them and you feel like you really accomplished something.
“We know we’re up against a pretty good team but, you know what, we’re pretty good, too.”
Clanton 3-3 2-2 8, Garrison 2-6 1-1 6, Kinder 5-13 5-6 15, Ballock 2-7 3-5 8, Williams 0-2 0-0 0, Johnson 0-2 2-2 2, Billinger 10-15 0-0 24, Moore 1-3 1-1 3, Marshall 0-2 0-0 0, Kinghorn 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 23-53 14-17 66.
NO. 8 FINDLAY (28-4)
Masterlasco 4-6 0-1 9, Overhiser 5-8 5-6 17, White 5-10 0-0 11, Smith 6-13 3-4 16, Schmock 1-6 2-2 4, George 1-4 1-2 3, Linder 2-5 4-6 8, Smith 0-1 3-4 3. TOTALS: 24-53 18-25 71.
3-POINT GOALS: Drury 6-21 (Garrison 1-3, Kinder 0-4, Ballock 1-3, Johnson 0-1, Billinger 4-8, Marshall 0-2); Findlay 5-20 (Masterlasco 1-1, Overhiser 2-4, White 1-3, Smith 1-7, Schmock 0-3, Linder 0-2).
REBOUNDS: Drury 27 (Moore 6); Findlay 33 (Overhiser 6).
ASSISTS: Drury 10 (Garrison 3); Findlay 10 (Schmock 4).
STEALS: Drury 7 (Garrison & Ballock); Findlay 9 (Linder 3).
BLOCKS: Drury 4; Findlay 1.
TURNOVERS: Drury 13; Findlay 13.
TOTAL FOULS: Drury 19; Findlay 17.
FOULED OUT: White (Findlay).
HALFTIME: Findlay, 30-29.