Final: Drexel 70, Rutgers 59 @ The RAC
Player of the Game: Tavon Allen
Key to the game: Backcourt Depth (see: Allen, Tavon)
Next Game: Wed, Nov 27 vs Arizona @ Madison Square Garden
A funny thing happened on the Scarlet Knights way to Madison Square Garden last night. They were manhandled.
The Dragons went up to beautiful* Piscataway, home of The State University of What Exit and took on the most physical team they have seen this year. Rutgers had two upper classmen wide bodies in the frontcourt, a former NBA coach on the sideline, and last seasons best three point shooter in the Big East working the point. Rutgers also features one of the better wings the Dragons might see this year in Pitt transfer JJ Moore. In short, for as much turmoil has been seen in that program in the last twelve months, the Dragons were still facing a pretty good team on its home floor. And then the Dragons helped polish that home floor by wiping it with the Rutgers basketball team.
For the second straight game, the Dragons celebrated Mardi Gras by remembering the theme "Do Whatcha Wanna". In the preview I talked about how the Dragons needed to keep those bigger bodies in the Knights frontcourt out of the paint and force them into jumpers. They succeeded with this, limiting Judge to just four shots and forcing Jack into 6/13 shooting, most of which were jump shots. Also noted was that the Dragons would need a turnover edge to offset Rutgers projected edge on the boards, and a look at the postgame box shows that while the Dragons did win the turnover game, it wasn't quite as important as originally thought. The Dragons surprised me by breaking even with Rutgers on the glass despite Rutgers' size and experience advantage in the paint. Credit to Dartaye Ruffin, who avoided foul trouble and stayed out on the court for 38 solid minutes last night. While the number of minutes over the early season is a concern, this is a different team when Ruffin is in the game, something which will be explored further in an upcoming blog post.
In the backcourt, Frantz Massenat's line may not look like much, but look at it closely. I posted a pregame prediction on twitter projecting him to have a big game with 34+ minutes, 15+ points, 4+ assist and 2 turnovers or less. His final tally: 39 minutes, 12 points, 7 assists and 2 turnovers. He was a poor foul shooting night away from hitting all 4 major categories for a point guard, and perhaps more importantly look at what he did on the other end: Myles Mack was held to 9 points, 2 assists and 3 turnovers. While Mack's laser like focus in repeatedly tossing the ball into the front row of seats may not have been forced by Frantz, it's worth noting that Mack took just 7 attempts from the field, the first time in 12 games that Mack hasn't had double digit attempts. For the second straight game, the perimeter D was so good, the opposing guards who normally do work from three point land weren't even bothering to attempt shots, and Massenat led that charge.
The player of the game could easily have been employee number 4, especially if he had sank those free throws, but had I named him, I'd be hearing it from you guys. Tavon Allen's 21 points on 17 shots and 2 assists was positively Saddler-esque, but the fact that it came off the bench was huge. Allen checked in before the under 16 timeout in the first half and saw almost every minute of action after that, finishing with a Chaz Crawford/Chris Fouch-ian 34 minutes off the bench. He did this because Fouch spent the whole game in foul trouble (credit him for filling the stat sheet in the 19 minutes he was on the court with 10points/3rebounds/4assists) and Damion Lee ended up with both a flagrant foul and a technical foul in the first half. Drexel badly needed a 4th guard this game, and Allen answered the bell. In a game that wasn't going to be won inside by Drexel, they needed their guards to step up. When Lee and Fouch couldn't stay on the court, it was Allen who rose to the occasion and ensured that Drexel's guards could continue to impose their will on both ends of the court.
Rutgers has talent. Not a lot of depth, but they are well coached, and I project them out to be floating right around the 100 mark in the rankings when the year ends. This game was not a signature win against a great opponent. This was a taking care of business win. The same can be said about the prior game against Elon, who I slot into the 125-150 range this season. What very good teams do against teams like this, when playing on the road or neutral court, is spend all game making it very clear which team on the court is the better team. They come in with game plans and execute them. That's exactly what Drexel did at the RAC this week.
The Dragons now have a week between games to prepare for the trip to the Garden. You can check back here daily during that time for your Dragons fix, as articles on the new rules, the already named team MVP for this year (if you follow @DragonsSpeak on Twitter you already know who it is), a brief Calvin Hicks post and more will pop between now and next Wednesday.