Final Score: Drexel 66, La Salle 53
Player of the Game: Tavon Allen
Key to the Game: Free throws
Next Game: Tuesday, December 15 @ South Carolina
After their worst start in the last 45 years, the Drexel Dragons have finally scored their first win of the season. On the road. Against a Big 5 team. No typo. The Dragons went into La Salle on Saturday with an 0-6 record, and emerged victorious by a score of 66-53.
As basketball games go, this one was ugly. While there were many good points for Drexel there were a lot of not so good points on the La Salle end of the box score that contributed to their loss. For example, Amar Stukes continued his Tavon Allen-like (more on that later) shooting streak, going 1-8 from the floor, including 0-3 from downtown. The last time Stukes hit a three pointer was on November 22, 2014 against St. Peter’s. Since then, he is 0-18.
Let’s take a look at a couple of the team factors that contributed to Drexel’s first win of the season. Then, we can take a closer look at a couple of individual performances.
Drexel won the free throw battle – Coming into Saturday’s game Drexel’s best free throw display this season was a 78% clip against San Diego. Their worst was against D-II University of Alaska-Anchorage where they shot 50%. Saturday this team was almost automatic, hitting 87.5% from the stripe. If you don’t think free throws are important, when they shot greater than 80% last season Drexel was 6-4 overall. The rest of the season they were 5-15. If this team wants to win, they need to shoot well from the line.
Drexel won the turnover battle. Barely. This game was sloppy. La Salle had 17 turnovers to the Dragons 15. Much like free throws, when the Dragons had less turnovers than their opponents in the 2014-15 season they were 8-11. When they had more they were 3-8.
No respect for the La Salle Frontcourt - The Drexel staff showed no respect for the Explorer big men, none at all. Aside from some ill advised Rashan London shots, the Dragons normal 15 foot jumpshot game was non existent, as they fed the post and even did some slashing into the paint. Scott touches on this below, but Flint & Co were proven right to do this - Rodney Williams had 14 points and 13 boards in 30 minutes. The entire La Salle front line put up 13 points and 13 boards in 63 minutes.
This also meant that Bruiser could go four guard when he chose to, and he did often. Anchored by Rodney Williams against the non-existent Explorer forwards, the Dragons decided to play towards the strengths of La Salle who regularly employs a 4 guard set. Generally playing into the other teams strengths is decision worth questioning, but given the inability to find DU's own strengths, this is something that may have been worth the risk and was a winning strategy on this day, albeit helped by La Salle's pure ineptitude.
One of the larger questions in this game concerns the lack of PT for Kazembe Abif. Bruiser went with Mohammed Bah over Abif for most of the second half despite Abif staying out of foul trouble and appearing healthy. Obviously there have been off the court issues between the two in the half and it will be interesting how that situation plays out.
Now for the individual performances.
Rodney Williams stays out of foul trouble – Rodney Williams is not only the best of the team’s four bigs but when he stays out of foul trouble he is also their best player. The kid has pure skill both as a face up player and with his back to the basket. It pains me to watch him run handoffs outside of the three point line. He does not belong out there.
After fouling out of three of his first five games, Williams put up what is unbelievably only the third double-double of his career scoring 14 and adding 13 rebounds. Like many of his teammates, he was clutch from the line shooting a perfect 6-6. Most importantly though, Williams stayed in the game and played a solid 30 minutes. While he had four fouls, they did not seem to hamper his tempo or ability to contribute.
Nobody wake up Tavon Allen – I mentioned earlier that Amar Stukes continued his “Tavon Allen-like” shooting streak. Well, our own Tavon Allen appeared to channel former teammate Damion Lee in the team’s first win, going 7-11 from the field and a perfect 3-3 from downtown and 8-8 from the line. In a post-game presser, Tavon said that he “is just taking good shots” which is nice to see, however those of us here at DragonsSpeak would much rather see him take a step back, and abandon his 19 foot two point field goals in favor of 20 foot 9 inch three pointers. Just take a step back, Tavon. Please.
Tavon's 25 point performance matched a 2013 performance against the dreaded Blue Hens of the University of Delaware. The shooting display Saturday against La Salle, however, was far superior. His shot selection was much better.
Beyond his offensive game, Tavon was once again asked to defend the other teams best player. Jordan Price is one of the best players in the city, and the DU coaches acted like it. When Tavon was on the floor he was tasked to Price. Whenever transition, a switch or a substitution meant Tavon wasn't on Price, the entire Drexel team was aware of where Price was on the floor including numerous double teams (Bru calls it help defense, but when it's a double team outside the arc, that's more than help). That the defense could play straight man to man when Tavon was on price shows the trust that the coaches and teammates have in Tavon to get the job done. Rodney Williams had a hell of a game anchoring the middle of the court, Tavon gets the player of the game because he had the hardest one on one job on the court and won it at both the offensive and defensive end, a very impressive performance.
Despite his performance, however, Tavon still got mixed reviews from his coach. “I hate to say it that way, but the kid hasn’t played good” Bruiser said in the post-game press conference. He went on to add that Allen has been a solid contributor on the defensive end of the floor, and said that “Today he played well.” Still though, the backhanded compliments need to stop. If I can give Tavon credit, coach, then so can you.
Calvin Hicks makes his debut – There has been one absence from the team this season that has been more noticeable than Major Canady or Ahmad Fields and that is Assistant to the Head Coach Calvin Hicks. When I first started writing my contribution to the blog this week, it was going to be a piece asking where Calvin, the team’s most vocal fan, had been so far this season. Normally, Calvin can be heard loudly chanting “DEFENSE!” every time the team hits their end of the floor, and taunting opposition free throw shooters by screaming “MISS IT!” on every single attempt. When he goes on the road, opposing fans often boo him or complain about him, but that has never slowed him down.
Welcome back, Calvin! It’s good to see you back in the mix.
The Dragons, now 1-6, head off to South Carolina in 10 days. With that long break, it will be interesting to see if the team can prepare effectively and stay healthy. As far as today’s game, all that I can say is nice job, guys, you made us proud to be DU fans.