Thursday, January 19, 2012

Drexel + Hofstra = Rockfight (Recap of Drexel vs. Hofstra)

There are few certainties in life; death, taxes and a Drexel-Hofstra rockfight.  I really don't know how to describe this rivalry otherwise.  The games are tough, physical and almost always a closely fought game. The rivalry has its roots in the America East where the teams battled out from 1994 until 2001.  In the 2001-02 season they both joined the CAA.  The Dragons owned the Pride for the first several seasons in the Colonial, winning eight games in a row.

The Drexel winning streak ended in the quarterfinals of the 2005 CAA Tournament.when Hofstra won 89-77.  Including that win, the Pride had gone 8-5 vs the Dragons since entering last night's contest. Many of the games in the series have been close.  Since the 2003-04 season, ten games have been decided by eight points or less and three of those were overtime games.  The teams have split those ten games.

Just before my six year old son Matthew and I left the house last night to go to the game, Matthew lost a tooth.  He told me he knew the tooth fairy would come over night and leave him a present. I joked with him that maybe the tooth fairy will bring Hofstra a win.

Hofstra was desperate for their first win in conference playing at home in the Mack Center while Drexel wanted to maintain its position in the top four of the CAA.  Just like their game against Northeastern last week, there were no cheerleaders, dance team, pep band or Lions Den student section due to no classes in session.  But the Freeport Marching Band and cheerleaders were in attendance and they did their best to fill the void and the Lions Den Section seating area.

But even if the crowd was small, there will always be electricity in the air when Drexel Head Coach Bruiser Flint is stalking the sidelines.  Bruiser is known for his animated coaching, whether he is arguing with officials, admonishing his own players or doing the classic Bruiser stomp.  Watching him in action is worth the price of admission alone. It only took nineteen seconds of game action before Bruiser was yelling at a referee.

The Pride came out quickly and jumped to a 6-0 lead in not even a minute and a half gone by in the game. And as animated as Bruiser was, Hofstra coach Mo Cassara was equally as animated.  You could tell that he really wanted this win badly.

But as quickly as they started out, Hofstra's shooting turned cold even quicker.  For the next eight plus minutes, the Pride didn't score a point until Stevie Mejia hit one of two free throws. It would be about another two and half minutes before Hofstra scored its next field goal, a layup by Mike Moore with a little more than eight minutes left.

Fortunately for the Pride, the Dragons weren't much better in the scoring department.  Despite outscoring Hofstra 14-1 over the span of ten and a half minutes, Drexel was only ahead by five points after the Moore layup.  The Dragons missed nine of their first ten shots and hit six of seventeen overall in those first twelve minutes.

However, Drexel stretched their lead out to ten, 26-16 on a Damion Lee three pointer with about two and a half minutes left in the half.  The Pride had a chance to cut into the lead but missed six free throws in the first twenty minutes of action.  The Dragons entered halftime leading 29-21.

Looking back on the first half, Hofstra was fortunate that the Drexel lead was not larger.  The Dragons struggled from the outside, shooting two of ten from beyond the arc.  That counterbalanced the Pride's own struggles from the three point line as they missed all five attempts.

As we normally do at halftime, my friend Tieff, Matthew and I visited Defiantly Dutch, aka my good friend Jerry Beach and his better half, Michelle.  After talking a few minutes with Jerry, Tieff came up with the idea that we should try to change our luck and change our seats.  Since no one was sitting behind Jerry and Michelle (the crowd was listed at over 1500), we decided we would sit behind them.  We were joined later by my friend Jeff, a colleague of mine at work. Together we all watched the second half unfold.

The second half saw Hofstra come out on a 7-1 spurt to cut the lead to 30-28 with sixteen and a half minutes left.  The score remained within two to five points in favor of Drexel for the next several minutes until Hofstra scored four straight points, the last two by Shemiye McLendon and Hofstra had their first lead since early in the first half, 40-39.  The crowd was finally into the game including the large Drexel contingent behind their bench.

The lead was short lived as McLendon missed a chance to extend the lead with a three pointer, but Chris Fouch didn't miss his three pointer and the Dragons were back out in front 42-40.  Dwan McMillan tied the game back up with a layup.  But then Drexel worked it inside and scored the next six points to go ahead 48-42 with two and half minutes left.

But Hofstra didn't quit and chipped away at the lead again, helped by a three point play by David Imes and a three pointer by Mike Moore with thirty five seconds left which cut the Dragons lead to 51-50.  It was the Pride's first and only successful three pointer on the night.  Hofstra tried to force a turnover in the backcourt, but had to foul with twenty five seconds left.   Frantz Massenat hit the first free throw, but missed the second.

Hofstra had the ball and a chance to tie the game.  Mike Moore drove down what appeared to be an open lane.   As he went for the game tying layup, he collided with a Drexel player.  The referee blew his whistle.

Moore was called for an offensive foul on a very questionable call.  Drexel ball.

After the Dragons inbounded the ball, Shemiye McLendon fouled Damion Lee.  Lee hit both free throws. Then off a Pride miss and a long outlet pass, Lee scored the final two points on an emphatic dunk.  Drexel escaped the rockfight with a 56-50 win.

When it came down to it, two statistics jumped out and they were not in Hofstra's favor. First, the Pride shot nine of nineteen from the charity stripe.  Second, the Pride hit only one three pointer out of thirteen attempts. In a low scoring game, those stats come back to haunt you.

Both teams played very hard in another typical Drexel-Hofstra rockfight.  There were forty seven fouls called in the game, which is typical in this series.  It was also the eleventh time that a Drexel-Hofstra game was decided by eight points or less since the 2003-04 season.  The Dragons emerged victorious and now have won five straight in conference.  The preseason CAA favorite is now tied for third place in conference in what they hope is the Year of the Dragon.

Meanwhile, the Pride left with another loss, their seventh straight in conference.  Five of their losses in conference are by six points or less and it was their fifth conference loss when they had either had a lead or were tied in the second half.  It doesn't get more frustrating than that.

Well, except for knowing that the tooth fairy doesn't bring wins.  I guess that's another certainty in life now.

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