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The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Dragons win LIU Turkey Classic in dominating form

Credit: Ken Chaney | Senior forward Nicki Jones recorded 12 points, three rebounds, three steals and two blocks in Drexel’s 51-33 victory over Colgate University in the LIU Turkey Classic.

Coming off a tough two-point loss against local rival Saint Joseph’s University, Drexel women’s basketball head coach Denise Dillon knew they would again be tested against another local school: La Salle University.

The game against La Salle would prove to be a launching point for the women’s team for their Thanksgiving tournament: the Long Island University Turkey Classic.

The close loss against St. Joe’s prepared the Dragons for handling a back-and-forth affair, which the game against La Salle proved to be. The Dragons won the game thanks to a great blend of leadership play from their seniors and a spark from their freshmen. Senior Hollie Mershon continued her great start to the season by scoring 20 points, while fellow senior Nicki Jones had her first double-double of the season by scoring 12 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Freshmen Meghan Creighton and Rachel Pearson combined for 13 points, as the Dragons won their third consecutive game against La Salle 56-53.

“Coming off the St. Joseph’s game, the girls understood that the La Salle game would be a tough battle,” Dillon said of her team’s resilience in the game against La Salle. “They were more prepared and were expecting that. That enabled them to pull out the close game.”

The women’s team then traveled to Brooklyn, N.Y., to compete in the LIU Turkey Classic. Their first-round game against the University of Missouri-Kansas City saw the Dragons explode for a season-high 76 points, as they defeated UMKC 76-40. Rachel Pearson was the top performer of the game, as she had the hot hand for much of the game. Pearson scored 19 points in a very efficient manner, going 7-9 from the field, including 5-6 from beyond the three-point line. Mershon had an all-around performance with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Junior Abby Redick scored 10 points and had six rebounds and a career-high five assists. The entire women’s team had a very efficient game, as the Dragons shot 30-58 from the floor in the game. Nine of the 10 dragons that played scored in the game.

Dillon said she was very pleased with her team’s depth because it’s a luxury to have heading forward.

“Everyone made a contribution to the victories. The ability to play 10 players a significant amount of time and not have a dropoff with any rotation on the floor was big,” Dillon said.

In the championship game of the LIU Turkey Classic, the Dragons wrapped up an impressive series of performances by defeating Colgate University 51-33. The Dragons’ dominant defense, which was such a key to their successful season last year and still is this year, was on full display over the two games against UMKC and Colgate. Against UMKC the Dragons only allowed 16 first-half points. Against Colgate they topped themselves by allowing nine points in the half, causing 11 turnovers and holding Colgate to only 16 percent shooting.

“The consistency on the defensive end was good to see. Overall in both games, we committed to getting the defensive stops,” Dillon said of her team’s series of outstanding defensive performances.

Defensively against Colgate, senior Taylor Wootton grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds, while Mershon led the charge offensively for the Dragons by pouring in 18 points. Mershon’s efforts over the two games in the LIU Turkey Classic earned her Tournament MVP honors and an All-Tournament selection. Joining Mershon on the All-Tournament team was Jones, who had a well-rounded game against Colgate with 12 points, three rebounds, three steals and two blocks. The LIU Turkey Classic marks Drexel’s first in-season tournament championship since December 28-29, 2000, when they captured the Big Apple Classic.

Coming off two excellent all-around team games, the Dragons were set to face the 24th-ranked University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. This was a matchup between two of the nation’s top defensive teams, and as a result, points were going to be scarce and every basket would be heavily contested.

The Dragons jumped on South Carolina by building a 14-point halftime lead of 36-22. However, South Carolina didn’t lay down, forcing 10 turnovers in the second half and controlling the boards after losing the rebounding battle in the first half. After clawing back to force the game into overtime, both defenses clamped down in the overtime period. Only one field goal was scored during the overtime, and unfortunately it belonged to the Gamecocks. Along with a free throw, the Dragons only allowed three points the entire overtime period. Unfortunately, the Dragons couldn’t crack the tough pressure of the South Carolina defense and didn’t score in the five minutes of overtime. The Dragons fell 58-55. Mershon led the Dragons with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Junior Fiona Flanagan scored 11 points, while Wootton chipped in 9. After getting some much-needed rest, the Drexel women’s team will travel to the University of Vermont to take part in the TD Bank Classic.

Dillon said she feels that after another emotional loss, the Dragons will come out ready to capture another tournament title.

“Obviously after an emotional loss, I think that will keep the team hungry to come out starting Friday ready to go with the same intensity to pull out a win. We hope we can put up two good results on Friday and Saturday, ” Dillon said.

The Dragons have lost two games this season by a combined five points, proving that they will compete and be in every match. As a result, anything is possible.