Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Iona - Postgame

This post written by Scot Kier

Final Score:  Iona 77, Drexel 70
Drexel player of the game: Sammy Mojica
Key to the game: Composure in the Clutch
Next Game:  Thursday Dec 31 @ UNC Wilmington

The Iona Gaels came into Monday night’s non-conference game against the Dragons with 22 consecutive home victories.  Through much of the first thirty minutes of play, it appeared that the Gaels would cruise to victory number 23.  That was until the Dragons gave them a run for their money.  It bears mentioning that Iona was without their best player AJ English who was injured earlier this month and had been averaging 25 points.  The Gaels still put up solid numbers on the offensive side of the court though, shooting 16-26 from the field, and 6-12 from downtown in the first half before cooling significantly in the second frame.

The first half of this game was the tale of two teams who were in completely different places and mindsets on the floor.  Drexel shot 9-26 from the field, 2-11 from three.  Sammy Mojica, the Dragons’ leading scorer was 4-6 overall and 2-4 from the line which means his teammates shot a painful 5-20 from the field and 0-9 from downtown.  They generated 9 turnovers to Iona’s 7, and were out rebounded by the home team 15-12.

One thing that stood out in the first half was Drexel’s two offensive fouls that were beautiful draws by the Iona defender.  London was tagged with one, and Mojica the other.  Offensive fouls happen, but it was a reminder of how rare it is that a Dragons player is seen taking to the floor in an attempt to draw a foul, especially with the aggressive defensive scheme that they play.  While the Drexel coaches preach toughness, they also continue to be struggling to use rules, new and old, to their advantage.

In the second half, it was almost as if the teams swapped jerseys.  Drexel shot 17-37 from the field as compared to Iona’s Drexel-like 11-25.  Mojica stayed hot, and undeniably earned the Player of the Game nod matching a career-high 20 points on 8-12 shooting with a 3-6 clip from downtown.  All of this was on the heels of what might have been the two worst games of his young Drexel career.

Tavon Allen started cold, but heated up in the second half.  His 1-6 shooting through the first 20 minutes landed him on the bench to start the second half.  Once he hit the floor though, he was a big part of the team fighting their way back as he contributed 12 points on 4-8 shooting.

Also impressing through the second half was freshman Terrell Allen.  His three steals and 8 points on 4-7 shooting, most of which was on hard-nosed driving layups, also played a big part in this team’s recovery.  That is the kind of ball that this team needs, and those are the kinds of “chances” that Bruiser Flint was talking about this team needing to take when they were in Alaska.  Well done.

The Dragons bench remained short.  Tyshawn Miles got some minutes as the third “big” for the Dragons but Austin Williams continues to ride the pine.  Comparatively the Gaels coach Tim Cluess countered the Dragons with 9 players, however his were on an almost revolving door of offensive for defensive subs.  Cluess seemed to have a strong grip on his situational moves for most of the game, however late in the second half the Dragons got hot.

Trailing 66-53 at the under-8 media timeout, Bruiser Flint went back to his often tried, and often failed four guard lineup.  This time, however, the Dragons would outscore Iona down the stretch 17-4.  They managed to whittle the home team's 19 point lead down to just 3.  The Dragons had a chance to tie the game up in the final minutes.

Now, on a personal note, I do not feel that I would be doing this write up justice if I did not discuss one of Drexel’s final plays, and it is a shame that I have to do it on the heels of Tavon Allen’s 1,000th point which was scored in the first half.  Over the past four years I have been a harsh critic of Tavon, his offensive abilities, and some of the basketball “intelligence” that he has shown on the court.  Scoring 1,000 points in a college career is quite the accomplishment. Congratulations to him.  I’m glad his mother was in the building to see it happen.

To set things up, Drexel had successfully played a four guard lineup for close to 8 minutes.  With less than a minute to go they trail 73-70 and are bringing the ball up the court with Terrell Allen, Tavon Allen, Sammy Mojica, Rodney Williams, and Rashann London on the floor.  This arguably had been this nights best five.

The Dragons called their final time out with 37 seconds to go, and 15 seconds on the shot clock.  When they returned to the floor they worked the ball around, and finally after coming off of a Rodney Williams pick, Tavon found himself with the ball at the top of the key.  He was shooting well at the time, and had the shot to take, so he took it.

The shot came up short and struck the rim.  By striking the rim, the shot clock was now no longer a factor.  Rodney Williams fought for the board and came away with it down low.  He looked back out to the top of the key and standing wide open on the wing just outside the three point line was Tavon Allen.  There was not another player, Drexel or Iona, within five feet of him.  Tavon received the pass, set to take his shot and somehow the ball came trickling out of his hands, going over his head and towards the sideline.  

With 22 seconds to go, Tavon recovered the ball and found himself standing with his heels next to the out of bounds line, Bobby Jordan and Bruiser Flint were standing immediately behind him, and two Iona Gaels were converging on him.  One of them was Sammy Mojica’s man.  Mojica, who was undoubtedly the best Dragon on the floor Monday night, started to drift towards the corner, wide open.  Tavon Allen, a senior, now had a few options.

With twenty seconds on the clock, and no shot clock, he could not call a time out.  His team did not have any.  To his left, Terrell Allen was calling for the ball as he moved, unguarded, to the top of the key.  To his right, the doubling defender abandoned Sammy Mojica leaving him wide open.  He had two solid passing options and even with the double from Mojica’s man, he had a clear view and play to Terrell Allen.

Tavon Allen, a senior, chose option number three.  He drifted back out of bounds shooting a long, off balance, fade away three pointer that missed almost everything, careening off of the backboard and into a Gael’s waiting hands.  Gaels made some garbage free throws to come away with a 77-70 victory.

Game.  Set.  Match.

The Dragons put on a solid effort tonight and that should not be overlooked.  They trailed 21-4 at the U12 in the first half, and outscored Iona the rest of the way 66-65.  This play, however, defined a lot of the issues that the Dragons have had over the years.  It almost seemed like they returned to the floor without a plan.  Their set looked more rushed and panicked than organized and practiced.  These are the clutch moments that teams typically work on for hours in the gym and somehow, time and time again, Bruiser’s teams seem to hit the floor unprepared.

Drexel returns to the floor on New Year’s Eve at 1pm for their first CAA game of the season in Wilmington, NC against UNC Wilmington.  The fans will have to sit and wait for the next couple of days to see if Ahmad Fields will finally make his return to the floor for Drexel.  Hopefully he can be the clutch shooter that this team desperately needs.

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