LAS VEGAS – Make that six.
The St. Mary’s Rattlers (8-1) crashed Drury University’s (7-2) national stance in Las Vegas, overrunning the No.14 nationally ranked Panthers by 10 Wednesday night in the final day of the Holiday Hoops Classic, 82-72.
The defeat for the Panthers elated the Rattlers, whose win granted them a six-game winning streak in their final non-conference game of the season.
And in the process, the Rattlers secured their best start since the 1997-1998 season, when they opened up the year 14-1.
Along with the Rattlers’ sixth straight, the big win over Drury witnessed Kevin Kotzur (RS-Sr., La Vernia, Texas) slam his sixth double-double on the season with a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds. As if the Rattlers weren’t already flying high back to San Antonio, the win also marked the first time this season all five starting Rattlers hit double-digits.
Daryell Taylor (Sr., Houston), who ignited a spark in the second half, totaled 18 points followed by Christian Bower (Jr., Chandler, Ariz.) hitting a season-high 11 points. Rounding out the starting five along with Kotzur, Taylor and Bower, Isaiah Matthews (RS-So., Texas City, Texas) and Moses Sundufu (Sr., Hopkins, Minn.) each added 10 points apiece. For the second straight game, Sundufu totaled nine rebounds and four steals against the Panthers as he did against West Florida Monday night, earning a spot on the All-Tournament team following Wednesday’s win.
It wasn’t all glory for the Rattlers, however. Parlaying what would turn into an underdog rising to become a beast, St. Mary’s, which trailed at the half 36-32, became a force in the second. Starting off not yet fully charged, the Panthers gained a 13-point lead (45-32) early into the second half before the Rattlers turned on the after-burners to cut into the lead and overtake the game. A 19-4 run that ended six minutes before the final buzzer spurred the 10-point victory, fueled by Taylor and Kotzur.
The second half saw a spurt of Rattler scoring, topping the Panthers 50-36 despite the early 13-point deficit at the start of the quarter. Taylor and Kotzur fueled the surge, each scoring 16 points in the second half alone. In addition, Matthews, unshaken by the close game and the national stamina of Drury, hit 8 of 10 free throws – all in the second half.
The Rattlers will see if their hot start will continue in Heartland Conference, as they resume league play against the University of Texas-Permian Basin on Thurs., Jan. 3 at Bill Greehey Arena at 7:30 p.m.