Final: Drexel 61, UNCW 50
Player of the Game: Tavon Allen
Key to the Game: Playing an 0-8 team
Next Game: Sat Feb 8 vs James Madison at the DAC
The Drexel Dragons defeated the UNCW Seahawks in what appeared to be an open scrimmage in front of 200 fans on Monday night. As noted in the pregame, it was expected to be a sloppy game on a bad weather evening in front of a small crowd, and it fulfilled those expectations brilliantly. Given the lack of precipitation in the hour prior to gametime, the lack of DAC Pack was mildly disappointing, but no one thought this was going to have the atmosphere of a Final Four game or the intensity of a hot rivalry with or without the Pack.
Both teams came in more excited for the week that was to happen after this game then they were for this clash of the somethings. The Seahawks got to get on a plane and head for warm(er) climates (it'll hit 70 in Wilmington on Wednesday) and the limping Dragons will limp into eight days in a row of sleeping in their own beds with only one game to play in that stretch, which is as close as they will get to a rest before their final regular season game on March 1st.
Most of the Seahwaks second half charge was due to the bigs hedging out to nearly half court to step out on ball screens, Ruffin took too long to get back so Allen covered his man in the paint, only to have Allen's actual man hit a trey, and on the next play Kaz Abif wasn't within the same zipcode as his man who ran a back door to the basket, no help came and he had an uncontested layup. In a lot of ways this game was reminiscent of the Davidson game, the forwards were going up against an undermanned and underskilled frontline on the opposing team, and yet it was the Drexel forwards that came away beat. Your stat of the night is second chance points: UNCW 13, Drexel 0. The Drexel forwards not only didn't rebound, but combined to be 3/11 from the field and even managed to pickup 10 of Drexel's 11 fouls. Rodney Williams probably had the worst game of his young career, and Kaz Abif played 31 minutes and came away with 1, yes 1, rebound. One (1). Dartaye Ruffin who was 24th in the country in field goal percentage going into the contest was 1/5 from the field and never got to the free throw line.
On the guard side, Frantz Massenat spent most of the game with Bru in his ear asking Frantz to do... anything. Go to the basket, come get the ball, recognize the zone, anything. Frantz's production in the second half of the game at UNCW outpaced his entire game production in this one. The injured Allen played 33 minutes because Major Canady was invisible when he played and Bru clearly wants to stay the heck away from playing Freddie Wilson right now. Chris Fouch had an efficient 16 points in 11 shots, but had a couple of turnovers and given the fact that UNCW apparently thought not guarding him was a good plan, had a pretty quiet day. So almost by default the Player of the Game goes to Tavon.
And here's where I was wrong. Tavon Allen played pretty well in this one. After re-watching some tape (and the first 10 minutes where he missed the majority of his shots was unavailable for viewing, so it's a little biased) he played alright on the defensive end. As for offense, I had all but written a piece expressing my displeasure at 10 two point attempts and no free throws, but then I watched the tape, looked at the box score, and saw this breakdown: 6 shots in the paint (6/6, 100%), 4 two point jumpers (1/4, 25%), 5 three point attempts (1/5, 20%). If he can keep two thirds or more of his shots either in the paint or behind the three point stripe, he'll become an effective weapon for this team. In this game he did that, and he was just that, an effective weapon and the blogs Player of the Game.
The one large and very under reported takeaway from this one is Chris Fouch continues to be banged up. He had to ask out of this one during the second half, wasn't nearly as aggressive as you expected him to be, and had a noticeable limp at times. This break will be just what the doctor ordered for him, and maybe a couple days of inaction may help him be a world better. It is worth noting that the shooter is back, his conference play numbers look like this: 26/68 (38%) from three, raising his season total to 33%.
It was an ugly game, but all of the loyal readers here expected that. The important part is that the Bruised Brothers of Bruiser have survived three games in six days, walked away from it winning two out of three and now will have a chance to recoup before the final run of conference games. In a game where neither team wants to be there, it doesn't matter how you win, you've just got to win it, and DU did. Now review, recharge, and prepare for a JMU team that has also won two of their last three and has looked noticeably better since the return of The Nation. The Dragons have yet to impress one time at home this year, so that game and the trip to Charleston that follows will be very telling to what Dragon fans should expect in the stretch run.