Final: Drexel 72, Davidson 58 at Belk Arena
Player of the Game: Frantz Massenat
Key to the game: The hot hand - the good DU 50% from threeNext Game: Wed, Dec 18 @ Saint Joseph's University
File this one under a win is a win. Going into this game, the thought was that a 14 point win would have been a cause for significant celebration, yet today the joy in Mudville is less than full. Remember the thought that this Drexel team would be hard to beat when they started shooting? Well they shot somewhere between well and very well in this game against a team that needs to shoot to survive and couldn't hit water from a boat. Yet with six minutes to go, it was a six point game.
No, this game never felt in doubt, despite the Davidson crowd willing their team into it, referee/self designated pacemaker Ray Natili's taking over of all things off the ball, or the text that landed on my cellphone with six minutes to go: "you nervous?" I wasn't nervous, because I was rooting for the bigger, stonger, faster, better shooting team and the Davidson fans around me were most definitely not. They were down their best two scorers and they seemed lucky when their shots landed in the town of Davidson, much less a basket therein.
How was this game close? Credit Bob McKillop for having his team prepared. They were making cuts on Drexel's inbounds plays almost before the Dragon players were. Drexel didn't score a win on the boards, when they should have owned the boards against a team with a lack of athleticism and size. For the first time since the Arizona game, Drexel turned the ball over more than their opponent. Credit to Brian Sullivan of Davidson who led the Wildcats in scoring, but helped the Dragons by showing the shot selection of Myley Cyrus at the end of a binge drinking marathon.
Fear not, there's good news too. This was a letdown spot game, looking ahead to Saint Joe's and playing against a weakened team without their best player(s). Drexel was called for 27 fouls and had their depth tested (more on that later). The Dragons still took care of business, retained the shooting stroke that they found against Tennessee State and led from start to finish. While there will be plenty for Bru and Crew to review during the postgame film study at the end of the day it was a double digit win, in a spot where previous Drexel teams would have had a dogfight.
More good news for the Dragons: Freddie Wilson made his first appearance in Blue and Gold, and represented everything that was expected of him. He can flat out score and his defense is what can generously be called "suspect". In a lot of ways, his game represents a lot of what Damion Lee's did, even though Wilson is a different type of player. What Damion does with size and strength Wilson does with speed and quick hands. Comparing quickness to the Davidson defense may not be a great scale to grade on, but Freddie's quickness both with his feet and hands seemed exceptional, and he showed off "in the gym range" and a willingness to go to the rack, the two biggest holes that were left when the Dragons went from Lee to Tavon Allen at the three. Wilson had a very nice assist on his first drive, dare i say it, feeding a big man (more on that tomorrow) and shot faked every time he caught the ball, always looking to create. With his skillset, if he ever keeps his man within five feet of him on defense, he could be a really good defensive player as well. The Draongs have a much smaller lineup when Freddie is in and Allen is on the bench so look for the staff to go offense/defense with this a bit at times this year, as they enjoy the flexibility and depth that Freddie will provide them.
If Freddie Wilson was a spark, the constantly burning fire was Frantz Massenat. For the second straight game Frantz put's up a great and efficient line, this time 25 points on only 10 field goal attempts. He finished off Davidson at the foul line, going 5/6 from the charity stripe in the final minute all of which combined to be good enough to overlook his 3 turnovers in the game and earn the blogs Player of the Game nomination. He filled out the stat sheet with 7 boards, 2 steals and 2, yes 2, blocks.
Say it with me now: This team is good. They may not have shown off the fundamentals in Belk Arena, but the shooting and perimeter defense bailed them out. Once again it has to be said, when this team puts it all together, look out. Not to preview the next game too soon or hint too much, but I wouldn't want to be a Hawk right now.
On a personal note, I got to take in this game with Gary Moore (and son) of CollegeHardwood.com which was a treat, and alongside three of my Drexel housemates who now live in the Charlotte area. Having them around made this game an absolute treat for me, and easily worth the drive. If you ever get a chance to travel, to see some Drexel hoop and spend time with the best people out there, Drexel people, don't ever pass it up.
Credit also to to Davidson U, sometimes you walk into a gym and know that a program is doing things the right way. I've gotten that feeling before at places like VCU, Belmont and UVA and I'm adding Davidson to that list. Belk is a great place to see a game.
Tomorrow we'll take a look at the Dragon forwards performance to date in a little more detail before previewing the big SJU tilt either late Tuesday or early Wednesday. Have a great week and let the buildup begin Dragons fans, we're off to slay the Hawk!