As the Drexel men’s basketball team entered Colonial Athletic Association play with a disappointing 4-8 record, the Dragons looked to extend their 16-game winning streak in regular-season conference play. First on the schedule was a trip to Georgia State University Jan. 2 to face the Panthers.
The Dragons held a slim 37-33 halftime lead on the back of senior forward Daryl McCoy, who pulled down 11 of his 14 rebounds in the first half. In the first 10 minutes of the second half, Drexel pulled away with a 22-6 run to extend its lead to 20 and never looked back.
Junior Frantz Massenat led Drexel to a 77-60 victory against GSU with 25 points. The Ewing, N.J., native shot 9-15 from the floor and converted all six of his foul shots.
Sophomore guard Damion Lee notched 15 points to go along with four assists, while freshman guard Tavon Allen came off the bench to contribute 13 points in 13 minutes. The two sharpshooters combined for 8-13 shooting behind the arc.
The Dragons stayed patient against the Panthers’ full-court press and zone defense and used their offensive efficiency to blow out GSU in the second half. Drexel shot 15-23 (65 percent) in the final 20 minutes, as the team coasted to a 17-point victory.
“I think that we did what we needed to do offensively,” head coach Bruiser Flint said. “They play a real quirky kind of zone that gives people problems, but I think we did a great job of being patient and making extra passes.”
With the win, the Dragons tied the University of Richmond for the second-longest regular-season CAA winning streak at 17, just one win shy of George Mason University’s mark of 18 consecutive wins in conference play.
Even though Towson University finished 1-31 last season, including a 1-17 record in CAA play, the Tigers boasted a much-improved 6-8 record as they visited the DAC Jan. 5. Drexel held a nine-game regular-season winning streak against Towson dating back to the 2007-08 season, including a 60-27 beatdown at the DAC last season.
Before the Dragons knew it, they were down 32-18 at the half after committing 10 turnovers, some of which led to easy baskets for Towson. Flint was not satisfied with his players’ effort and focus from the get-go:
“We threw it to them four straight times for layups [at the end of the first half],” Flint said in a postgam press conference. “We literally threw it to them, and they got layups.”
However, Drexel fought back and found themselves in the game late in the second half, but Massenat could not make either of his desperation three-point attempts to tie the game in the final seconds, and the Dragons fell to the Tigers by a score of 69-66. It was Drexel’s first loss to Towson since March 6, 2009, in the CAA Tournament.
As well as the Dragons shot the ball against GSU, they were on the opposite end of the spectrum against Towson. Senior forward Derrick Thomas had his highest-scoring game of the season with 15 points on 5-12 shooting from the floor, but Drexel shot 19-56 (34 percent) from the floor and just 20-34 (59 percent) from the foul line.
“We don’t deserve to win games like that if we don’t come ready to play,” Flint said. “I don’t care what anybody says. If you come ready to play, you’re not in [the end of the game] situation.”
Fouls were a large part of the game, as the two teams combined for 49 committed fouls and 72 foul shots. Drexel sophomore forward Kazembe Abif, senior forward Dartaye Ruffin and Lee all fouled out before the final buzzer. As for the Tigers, junior guard Rafriel Guthrie fouled out in only nine minutes of play, and four of his teammates accumulated four fouls.
McCoy scored seven points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his third consecutive double-digit game on the glass. Massenat added 17 points but shot just 6-17 from the floor and committed six turnovers compared to four assists.
When the Dragons came out Jan. 8 for pregame shootaround against Northeastern University, their starting shooting guard was sitting on the bench in a cardigan. Lee had injured his ankle against GSU and aggravated it in the loss to Towson. He joined senior guard Chris Fouch, who had season-ending ankle surgery, on the end of the Dragons’ bench.
The injury bug also bit McCoy, who was noticeably hindered by a foot injury and played just 25 minutes against the Huskies. He put forth a determined effort, still being able to grab eight rebounds and score four points on 2-3 shooting, including a put-back with 1:05 remaining in the game to put Drexel on top by a score of 47-43.
“Daryl has a really bad foot injury and he probably shouldn’t be out there, but he’s sucking it up for me right now,” Flint said following the game.
In Northeastern’s final possession of the game, down by three, sophomore forward Quincy Ford picked up his dribble with less than five seconds remaining. He pump-faked Massenat and put up a double-pump prayer from beyond the line that swished through the net with 1.9 seconds on the clock.
Ford’s shot, which ended up being the top play on ESPN SportsCenter later that night, shocked the crowd of 1,923 at the DAC, and the Dragons were not able to hold on in overtime, falling by a score of 63-58.
The loss marked Drexel’s third overtime loss on the season and dropped the team to an 0-5 record in games decided by five or fewer points. It put the Dragons in unfamiliar territory near the bottom of the CAA and matched the number of games they lost in regular-season conference play all of last season.
Allen, who filled in for Lee in the starting lineup, scored 15 points on 5-12 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds in 37 minutes of play before fouling out in overtime. Allen has played more than 20 minutes three times this season, scoring 15.3 points per game; he is averaging 8.7 on the season.
Flint was asked in the postgame press conference about the availability of Lee for the team’s next game at James Madison University Jan. 12 in Harrisonburg, Va. The Dukes hold an 8-8 overall record with a 2-1 CAA mark through three conference games.
“I’m not sure whether it’s day-to-day, … [but] he hasn’t practiced or anything like that, ” Flint said of Lee’s injury. “We’ll get a little more information, and we’re looking to get to [our next game on] Saturday.”
Lee’s return would be much needed for the Dragons, who ran with just a seven-man rotation against Northeastern. Flint mentioned that junior forward Goran Pantovic, who has appeared in only six games so far this season, might see some game action on the team’s three-game road trip if McCoy is hindered by his foot injury any further.