Another night, another rash of problems and frustrating play for a Drexel men’s basketball team that is currently on the downswing of all downswings.
Once standing with a proud record of 7-2 with losses exclusively to Top 25 teams, the Dragons now sit at a sober 8-6 after opening Colonial Athletic Association play with an 85-73 loss Jan. 8 to The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
The Dragons played the conference opener without junior power forward Kazembe Abif, who was sidelined with a knee injury. Knowledge of the injury was not made public until 10 minutes before tipoff, when Dave Fairbank of the Daily Press made it known via Twitter. At the time of this story, no further information was provided on Abif’s condition.
As if that absence wasn’t enough, senior forward Dartaye Ruffin left the game early in the first half with an apparent calf injury after playing just seven minutes. He was seen on the bench with an ice pack on his calf and using crutches throughout the rest of the evening.
After the game, head coach James “Bruiser” Flint told Drexel Radio’s Rob Brooks,“It looks like Dartaye might be out for a while.”
To recap, Drexel played 33 minutes against William & Mary without their two best forwards on the floor, and yet they were only out-rebounded 36-32. But the rebounding was not the ultimate tide-turner. Instead, it was the Dragons’ defense that let them down against one of the most potent offensive squads in the CAA.
“We lost this game in the first half,” Flint told Brooks after the game, referencing the season-high 46 points his team allowed in the first 20 minutes of the game.
It was the second most points Drexel has given up in any half this season, behind the 52 they allowed in the second half Dec. 18 versus Saint Joseph’s University.
The Tribe went 8-13 from three-point range in the first half, unleashing a relentless offensive barrage led by junior shooting guard Marcus Thornton, the highest scorer in the CAA. It seemed as if William & Mary would never miss from behind the arc — or from anywhere on the floor — at many points in the first half.
Entering the game, the Dragons allowed just 40.8 percent field goal shooting, but the Tribe made 18 of its 30 field goal attempts in the first half. Without their best defensive player in Ruffin, Drexel’s guards began helping on the interior defense, leaving the outside shots open and ready.
William & Mary capitalized.
“They’re one of the top three-point teams in the nation, not just in the league,” Flint acknowledged after the game. “And they started knocking them down.”
For the Tribe, Brandon Britt had 10 points at halftime and finished with 15, tied with freshman sensation Omar Prewitt for the second-highest mark on the team; Prewitt hit four of the team’s 11 three-pointers.
And yet, through William & Mary’s unconscious first half and the Dragons’ absolute lack of bodies at the forward position, Drexel was able to mount a confounding comeback on the backs of its talented guards.
Chris Fouch, Frantz Massenat and Tavon Allen combined for 55 of Drexel’s 73 points on 44-percent shooting from the field. A big push from Allen and Massenat made it a 66-58 game with eight minutes to play in the game, which marked the first time the Dragons’ deficit was in single digits since the 3:57 mark of the first half.
But William & Mary continued to knock shots down, finishing 51.1 percent from the field on the night, including shooting 48 percent from deep.
It was simply an insurmountable situation for Drexel.
Considering how limited their resources were in Wednesday night’s game, Flint sounded as if he was proud of his team’s effort in the loss.
“We fought hard in the second half,” he said after the comeback effort fell short. “I thought we did some good things. We just couldn’t come up with some big rebounds in the second half that could have [gotten] us over the hump. We missed some easy lay-ups, we got some strong lay-ups to the basket.
“They made some tough plays and some tough shots when they needed them, and that’s how we lost.”
The Dragons play again Jan. 11 in their conference home opener when Northeastern University (4-11) pays a visit to the DAC for a 2 p.m. tip-off.