Final: Drexel 71, Elon 64 @ The RAC
Player of the Game: James Flint
Key to the game: Balance
Next Game: Tues, Nov 19, @ Rutgers
The Dragons brought home a W on a warm November Monday in a game with a 5pm tip time on a neutral court at a near empty arena.
Any Drexel fan knows that empty arenas have never been a specialty of Bruiser's teams, and even less so, neutral courts with empty arena's.
This was different.
This team walked into an arena, did almost everything they want to do, never trailed in the game, and imposed their will on anyone in the other teams jersey.
I walked away from this game asking those with me what this Drexel team was good at. Pre-season we certainly expected the answer to be shooting, but they haven't shot well in a game to date. 43% from the field against Elon is certainly nice, but mid 40's from the field as a high point on the (early) season? Not so much. In a previous post I discussed how the rebounding - while still above average - has not been as good as prior years. The team isn't as good defensively as they've been in the past. Maybe the ball-handling has been a bit better, but 9+ turnovers every game doesn't scream special. All the key notes and identities of Flint's teams past, and none of them quite applicable to this team yet. There's an identity in there, but it hasn't been out there in full force yet.
While these statistical sliders have shifted up or down slightly in the first few games, and all indicators now seem to be firmly in the above-average to good position, there is one piece that does stand out. Like a zen master, (totally the first thing you think of when you think of Bruiser, am I right?) this team has achieved balance. On a score sheet in which 3 guys had 15+ points and no one else had more than 6, that's a tough sell, I get that. So before you call me crazy, I ask you to consult your old box scores and write in to the blog the last time that you saw Drexel play 9, that's NINE players for double digit minutes.
Foul trouble can drive a man to drink, and seeing Bru yell out for some "Mo Mo Mo" from Mohamed Bah makes you wonder what Coach Flint will be washing down his 300th career win and 214th win at Drexel with. The thing is, when Dartaye Ruffin only played 18 minutes and his primary backup came in and racked up 4 fouls in 12 minutes, instead of turning to a big tall glass of Mad Dog, or throwing some Yanni out there, he had - another competent bench player! I've heard both sides of the "depth is important" argument over the years, and no one has won me over yet, but I know that when the refs call 25 fouls, you wanna roll deeper than Kanye at a Psychologist convention. For once, Drexel had it. So while Fouch steadied the ship all game long with consistent quality play, and Tavon Allen had 15 points in 15 minutes, hitting jumpers like KG (discussion of his love of poor quality jumpshots aside for now), both worthy player of the game performances, they aren't getting that game ball (blog ball? I need a name for this. Suggestions??) tonight.
Put simply, Flint put his team in position to win. They were able to go 9 deep. They defended the three point line so well in the first half that Elon not only wasn't hitting threes, they weren't even attempting them. He rotated his players to try to roll with the foul situations, and while he probably held Massenat out one play too long, he did very well with the balance of the subs. And for this, he has career win number 300 and a new Drexel record. Tomorrow, we talk about the concerns this team might have down low, how the level of competition is about to significantly increase and how the hand checking rule may impact this team. Tonight though, the game ball should go to the well dressed man with the team that rolls nine deep. Congrats Bru.