Final: Towson 75, Drexel 73
Player of the Game: Darzembe Rufif
Key to the Game: Interior Defense
Next Game: Monday Feb 3 vs UNCW @ the DAC
After losing to Towson by 12 at home, not a lot of folks out there expected Drexel to head down to their house and pick up a W. If they had been told that Chris Fouch would only have 10 points on 13 field goal attempts, that Tavon Allen would reinjure his ankle yet again while attempting 15 two point attempts, seemingly none from inside the paint and that Towson would shoot almost 60% from the field, alongside 84% from their 31 free throw attempts? Blowout city. 30+ point loss, right?
Drexel almost won the damn thing.
For the second time in a row against Towson, Drexel had a +5 turnover advantage, a 20% rebounding advantage, and lost. This time it was a whole lot closer though. There were two major differences set against a hard current of similarities: Drexel's guards adjusted and defended the perimeter much better this time around. Fouch got beat once, but otherwise shut down McGlynn again, and while Towson's 50% shooting from deep may look bad, they only attempted 6 three pointers this game. Last time around they shot 50% from distance but attempted 16. The other big difference was the big guys. Last time around Frantz was still beginning to evolve in finding and trusting these guys, and the Panovic/Williams/Bah combo went 4/16 from the field for 12 points. This time around it was Ruffin/Abif/Williams/Bah and they went 9/18 from the field for 28 points. Chris Fouch was struggling? They picked him up. The Drexel offensive juggernaut kept rolling. Drexel now has the best offense in the conference in conference play, and they haven't even gotten to play against the Drexel defense. It's a five man, well oiled machine that was supplemented by offensive glass domination today.
Ah, but they lost. That's a problem.
They may have fixed the perimeter issues, but the remainder of the defense is... not good. And we're not pointing a finger at the bigs alone. Ruffin looked pretty good out there today and was really working hard at both ends of the court. A brutal call for his fourth foul with thirteen minutes to go in the second half really took the wind out of the Dragons sails as Rodney Williams got caught looking like a freshman at times. Kazembe Abif did everything he could to hold things together while Dartaye was out, and did a yeoman's job on the offensive end, but the lack of Ruffination was noticed.
Drexel only has one day to rest their walking wounded before their next contest against UNCW, and the recommendation from this blog would be this: watch how Rafriel Guthrie was defended on tape. Loop it. Figure it out. Because that guy was driving it like he stole it out there, en route to his second highest points total of his career. I mean no disrespect to the guy with the under one point per possession this year, who averages 11 points a game, but it was tough to tell the difference between that guy and Jerrelle Benimon out there, and one should be able to tell the difference.
Then there's the really bad news. Bruiser rested none of the injured, Tavon tweaked the old ankle that it doesn't appear they will ever let heal, and there's another game in 48 hours (albeit against UNCW). If Bruiser wants a healthy team in March, he sure shows it in an interesting way. Freddie Wilson never checked into the game, Abif played 35 minutes rather then playing Bah earlier in the contest and not only is the defense bumbling its way down the road, Towson has shot 30 or more free throws in both games against the Dragons this year. While the one game outcome was a good fight, Drexel didn't come away with a win and aren't exactly setting themselves up for a run while taking the loss. It was said in the pregame post that Bru won't back down from anyone, and it's as true now as it was then, but where does the line between pride and logic blur? You tell me Robin Thicke, because I'm not sure and Coach Flint doesn't seem the least bit concerned about it.
Knowing everything listed in that last paragraph is what makes this tough. Because on the surface, a team with this much talent, the first time maybe in a decade that Bruiser has five legit scoring threats on the floor, should be exciting for the fanbase. We should be celebrating how good this team is. After begging them to feed the bigs throughout the first half of the year, they're doing it. All of the things on the offensive end that they can do, are getting done. Virtually no turnovers, a dominating performance on the offensive glass, inbounds plays, even alley-oops! With a Bruiser Flint coached defense and that offense, the sky is the limit for these guys, with or without Damion. They were fine defensively before Ruffin was hurt. They can find that again. They've got exactly one month to do so. Make it happen fellas, this team is way too good to waste.