In what was my first game as a Drexel alumnus, I left Hagan arena feeling much better than I thought I would. Coming in as the preseason 8th placed team in the CAA, losing the best offensively talented player in Drexel history* and playing against a team that has had Drexel’s number the past 4 years, I expected Mr. Benbry and his almighty fro to have his way with the Drexel defense and get this long season started.
For the first 10 minutes, it seemed like my fears were realized, the triple handoff was once again ineffective, long range 2 pointers seemed to be the shot of choice, and SJU seemed to do as it pleased on the offensive end. But then Drexel started doing un-Drexel things, working the ball inside, driving to the hoop instead of settling for fade-aways, and actually making shots inside. Unfortunately, they could never quite get over the hump as SJU always seemd to have an answer for every Drexel run. Whether it be Bembry slamming it home, or Oliva draining a three, the Dragons were never able to close the gap. As with every close game, there was the good, the bad, and the ugly.
- Terrell Allen: Looking at the box score, it is easy to see why the new T. Allen belongs in this category. In the first (!!!) game of his collegiate career, he went for 20 points on 13 shots, 2 rebounds, 4 assists to 1 turnover, 4 steals, and only 2 fouls in a game which saw a total of 51 fouls called. He played beyond his years, directing players, and keeping the rest of his teammates calm during the horrendous start. I can see why Bru was high on this kid and he seems to have a bright future ahead.
- OFFENSE!: Rarely seen in the Bruiser era, the Dragons averaged 1.09 points per possession, a mark they only beat in 7 games last season and they showed signs that they could be even better than that. The bigs only would up with 26% of the points (21/81) but the Dragons definitely worked the ball around more, which led to the guards being able to drive to the basket.
- Free Throws: Called free throws for a reason, the Dragons only hit 64% of their free throws, a mark that must improve for this team to compete for the CAA title. Granted, the number is skewed due to the bigs, Bah and Rodney combining to go 1-8 from the line. If they are going to keep getting to the line, they need to convert better.
- Defense: Normally known for being a defensive team under Bruiser Flint, the Dragons yet again gave up over 1 Point per Possession to their opponent. A lot of this number has to deal with sending opponents to the line way too often (more on that below)y. This is not your typical Drexel defense, and the grind it out, physical type of defense is long gone. Drexel gave up way too many points inside the arc, allowing SJU to shoot 60%. I did question Bruiser’s choice of Mojica on Bembry to start the game, and it showed with Bembry getting open and to the rim with ease, scoring 7 early points. Later in the game, Tavon was moved to guard Bembry, which proved to be a better matchup and slowed Bembry's production. Luckily, there are no Bembry’s in the CAA, but the interior D needs to tighten up.
- FOULS: As mentioned above, there were a total of FIFTY ONE fouls called in this game, making it over 2 and a half hours long, and painful to watch. This is definitely a trend in the national college basketball scene as teams adjust to the new rule changes, but with 3 Drexel players fouling out, cleaner play must be stressed in practice in order to compete in games this season. In addtion, the ever popular Bruiser technical made an appearance, and Bruiser does need to keep his cool in these early games, as everyone is going to be upset at how the new version of college basketball is going to be played.
There is a lot to look forward to this season, and if Saturday night’s game is any indication, this team is much better than an 8th place finish in the CAA. Looking to the next week, a matchup with High Point and Monmouth are coming up, the latter just coming off a win over UCLA. We will learn a lot about this team before conference play, and I, for one, am excited that college basketball ia finally back, and that I can enjoy it from the comfort of my own cushy seatback this time around.
*Apologies, Malik Rose