Saturday, March 10, 2012

Drexel - Rock Fight U (Recap of UNCW - Drexel - CAA Tournament Quarterfinal Game)

If you follow the CAA, what's the one thing that comes to mind when you think of Drexel? Well you might consider "Physical", considering the type of style the Dragons play.  You might also consider "Intense", becuase that's how Head Coach Bruiser Flint coaches.

Well, when I think of Drexel, I think of the CAA's likely copyrighted phrase "Rock fight".  It's a word that has often described CAA play. But when it comes to rock fights, no team does it better than the Dragons.  Low scoring, physical, close games with both teams scoring in the fifties. More often than not in its history under Bruiser, Drexel usually has come out on top thanks to its very good defense and its just good enough offense.

Then came this season.  The Dragons were 16-2 in conference, finishing first in the regular season.  Yes, they were first in the CAA in scoring defense, second in field goal percentage defense, first in three point field goal percentage defense and first in rebounding.  This season's team was Drexel defense at its finest.

But thanks in large part to the development of sophomore guard Frantz Massenat, freshman Damion Lee and returing stalwarts Chris Fouch and Samme Givens, the Dragons have had their best offense in a long time.  Drexel was first in the CAA in three point field goal percentage and third in field goal percentage.

And not only was this the first Dragons team in their CAA history to shoot above seventy percent from the foul line, they actually led the Colonial in free throw percentage at nearly seventy five percent. The Dragons actually led the CAA in scoring margin at + 9.4 points per game.  Drexel - Offensive Juggernaut.

The Dragons immediately showed off their offensive prowess against the Seahawks of UNCW, hitting their first four shots from the field to jump out to a 9-4 lead.  But UNCW responded with a 12-4 spurt to jump ahead 16-13, which allowed the Old Dominion fans in attendance for the next game to roar in approval, since ODU was Drexel's likely next opponent.  It wasn't like the Dragons were playing bad defense.  The Seahawks were just hitting tough shots like Cedrick Williams turnaround jumper that put UNCW up 12-10.

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Still the Seahawks were beating the Dragons at their own game. In the first half, UNCW outrebounded Drexel 19-11 and they got Givens, Drexel's leading rebounder in foul trouble with two fouls. The Seahawks were still up 18-17 with six minutes left in the half.

However, the Dragons rallied as they outscored the Seahawks 10-4 the rest of the first half.  Massenat came alive with several pretty passes for three assists in the final six minutes.  One of the passes was thrown through traffic with such precision that Peyton Manning would have been proud. Then came a loose ball right by the Drexel bench where it almost looked like Bruiser Flint wanted to jump into the pile.  The Dragons entered halftime up 27-22 on a driving layup, by who else, Massenat.

Interestingly, Flint left Givens on the bench to start the second half.  It didn't seem to matter as Drexel came out and outscored UNCW 24-11 in the first ten minutes.  Everyone in Drexel's rotation contributed, even Givens who finally came off the bench five minutes in the second half.  The Dragons were up 51-33 and the game was basically over.

In the nine years that I have watched the CAA Tournament, Drexel had never had as large a student section as they did for this tournament.  The DACPack was large and in charge with a resounding "D-U" chant with the Dragons' contingent of fans behind their bench.  Considering how Virginia based the Colonial Athletic Association conference is, it was a welcome thing to see.

As for the Seahawks, they didn't give up.  They cut the lead down to ten with about two minutes left in the game but they never got any closer.   The Dragons would win the game 59-47.

Drexel did an excellent job on UNCW's star player, Keith Rendleman. Rendleman only scored ten points on three of nine shooting from the field.  Often it seemed that he was literally bouncing off Drexel's mammoth Darryl McCoy (who's listed at 270 pounds, but as Shaka Smart noted the next day "That's a joke".). McCoy would foul out later after hammering Rendleman on a shot attempt, but not before the "270 pound" big man had ten rebounds on the day.

Rendleman, the fourth leading rebounder in the CAA at ten rebounds per game,  also didn't have one single rebound in the entire game.  When asked in the post game press conference if he ever had a game in his life, including the grade school level, where he didn't have at least one rebound, Rendleman replied "Never".  Drexel also limited UNCW as a whole to twenty six percent shooting in the second half. That's how good Drexel's defense was on the day.

As for the Dragons' offense, they shot forty eight percent in the second half. Four players averaged in double figures; Fouch had fourteen points, Massenat and Givens each had eleven and Lee had ten points.  Drexel outrebounded UNCW 24-13 in the second half.

As the Dragons' student section cheered in approval at the end of the game, the final score indicated one thing. Another rock fight won by Drexel.

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