Player of the Game: Dartaye Ruffin
Key to the game: Pitching and Defense
Next Game: Sat, Dec 7 vs Tennessee State @ The DAC
There will be a lot of people from "the outside" who don't sleep with RPI printouts lying on their chest or watch their team on the road or read blogs like this one who tell you that Drexel going to triple OT against Cleveland State shows exactly how weak DU is without Damion Lee. How this clearly displays that Drexel isn't a contender to be a top tier program this year and how once again they'll be good but not good enough.
With respect to those people... They couldn't be more wrong. Cleveland State brought their defense first mentality to the DAC on Wednesday night and played a man to man the likes of which you have only seen from some of Bruiser Flint's better defensive squads. They then flipped to zone for a bit, challenging DU to adjust and as soon as they did Coach Waters flipped right back to in your jersey man. Besides proving that tough man to man D can be played in this handcheck era, CSU was proving that they remembered the 20 point homecourt loss on national TV from two years ago and they wanted to get even. Someone make sure the equipment manager checks before he washes Chris Fouch's jersey, a Viking might fall out.
One other thing. CSU shot 50% from the field, and 48% from three. The Cleveland State Vikings played very good basketball Wednesday night in a surprisingly temperate DAC. A lot of nights when a team like that comes to town, the home team coach has to get to the press room postgame and mutter "listen, you gotta tip your hat sometimes man. They played good. We got beat tonight, they played really good against us, they hit everything." (Not quoting there, and apologies for channeling my inner Bru). Bruiser Flint didn't have to use those words or any like them after this game, because this years Drexel squad is very good themselves, and they took those punches and answered.
Frantz Massenat will get plenty of applause in the press postgame, and deservedly so. Frantz played all 55 minutes and only turned the ball over twice against intense man to man pressure. On top of that he had 21 points from the field on only 13 field goal attempts and picked up 9 assists. He was a few free throws and a bad feed to Kaz Abif from throwing a near perfect game, so it's almost criminal that he doesn't end up player of the game. The thing is, in the Stop the BLeeding post about the Dragons moving on without Damion Lee, the following was mentioned:
"The biggest advantage that this years team has is how they're winning games. Rebounding and turnover margins are the pitching and defense of college hoops... It's not sexy, and it's certainly not the way this team was drawn up, but it's been on display game in and game out this year."
The way to beat a really good defensive team that is shooting lights out against you is to take a lot more shots than them. This means not turning the ball over and it means giving up no second chances. While Frantz was a critical component on the first measure, it was Dartaye Ruffin who pulled down down 14 boards. Dartaye actually pulled down more offensive rebounds against Cleveland State then the entire Vikings team pulled down against him. And it was against him personally: the big man kept himself out of foul trouble and on the court for 54 of the 55 minutes of game action. He had as many steals as he had turnovers (2 a piece) and for the second straight game, every single time a ball was passed to him and he shot it, Drexel came away with points. I don't know what better than that would look like, but it probably just involves his teammates giving him the ball more.
The Dragons weren't perfect. Tavon Allen showed some awful shot selection again early, but for most of the rest of the game his shots were less poor decisions, and more the result of CSU refusing to give Chris Fouch a look. Tavon also did a bit of a better job of taking it towards the bucket and getting to the line a couple times, a good sign of him attempting to develop his game. Credit goes to Chris Fouch as well because despite the extra care from the opposition he still did his thing, 53 minutes with only 1 turnover and 17 points on 16 field goals.
It's tough to win a jumpshoot contest where the other team can't seem to miss. The Dragons rose to the occasion in their home opener. Winning in triple overtime was no flaw, it should be a source of pride. As they turn to a game against Tennessee State before the well deserved exam break Drexel fans shouldn't waver. The Dragons have stopped the BLeeding.