The Dragons entered their game against Northeastern University riding high on a three-game win streak. They were coming off a dominating 65-38 win over Georgia State University at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. Junior Hollie Mershon was credited with 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the win and was named Colonial Athletic Association co-Player of the Week. She is currently ranked second on the team in scoring with an average of 16.5 points per game. Drexel’s leading scorer, senior Kamile Nacickaite, also had an impressive showing with 20 points and six rebounds.
Northeastern came into the game against Drexel having lost four of its last five. The Huskies are just 1-7 on the road and 0-2 on the road in the CAA. The Dragons have controlled this head-to-head series as of late, winning the last six tilts and not falling to the Huskies at home since 2000.
The Huskies won the tip and drew first blood with a long two. Senior Tyler Hale answered on the next possession with a good move in the lane. With the score 2-2, the Dragons had an impressive but fruitless offensive possession, resulting in four offensive rebounds and no points. Drexel’s defense was stout, forcing Northeastern to shoot mostly three-pointers. The Huskies were finally able to drain a three to take an early 2-5 lead. Senior Ayana Lee answered the Huskies’ three with a layup to bring the Dragons within one. The Huskies drained two more threes, which prompted head coach Denise Dillon to change her strategy.
“We were in zone at first, and our coach decided to go straight man so they wouldn’t get the easy looks on the outside,” junior Taylor Wootton said during the postgame interview.
The teams traded baskets for most of the early stages of the first half. Drexel started to pull away when Hale hit a jumper with four minutes remaining in the half. Soon after, Mershon was fouled after making a layup. She sank the free throw to put Drexel ahead 25-18.In the waning minutes of the first half, the Dragons made some impressive defensive stands and only allowed two points in the final two and a half minutes. At the intermission the Dragons led 33-20.The second half was more of the same for the Dragons, as their size proved to be too much for the Huskies. By the midway point of the second half, the Dragons led 48-32 with a majority of their points coming in the paint. With 6:35 remaining in the game, Mershon made a big steal after a missed shot by Wootton. The Dragons converted the turnover into two points, putting them up 56-32. Drexel dominated the rest of the game, finishing with a final score of 66-39.After the game both the coach and players agreed that the defensive adjustment made early in the first half shifted the momentum and made the real difference in the game.
“I was upset, early in the game, all the threes we gave up,” Dillon said. “But we had the adjustment and the girls responded. Once we took them out of that game, the threes, it made it harder [on Northeastern].”
The Dragons had four players with double-digit points. Both Nacickaite and Hale had game highs with 14 points. Mershon had six rebounds and 13 points.
Wootton also really thrived against the undersized Huskies in the second half.
“They weren’t a really big team; their two post players were on the bench, so I tried to take advantage of that,” Wootton said.
Wootton finished the game with 10 points, six of which came in the second half, and four offensive rebounds.
The Dragons are back in action Jan. 22 against No. 16 University of Delaware. Drexel knows the challenge of facing a ranked opponent, but they know that there is a possibility they could steal one.
“It’s early in the year. You don’t get too worked up with positioning right now, especially with the stretch we have coming up,” Dillon said. “I just talked to the girls about it, Sunday’s game is a game we’d love to steal, but we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We try to take care of the games we have a chance of winning, and we’re doing that.”