The below is written by Scott Kier, a continued thanks to him for his contributions to the page.
Final Score: UNCW 77 Drexel 72
Drexel Player of the Game: Rodney Williams
Key to the Game: Personnel Management
Next Game: Thursday January 28 vs Towson
Drexel and UNC Wilmington took the court against tens of fans at the DAC for a rare early Sunday afternoon game. The attendance was not their fault as the northeast sat on the tail end of one of the worst snowstorms seen in the last twenty years. What was initially supposed to be a typical Colonial Athletic Association Saturday afternoon game was moved late Friday allowing Drexel to play in front of Calvin Hicks and 73 of his closest friends.
As always, the game was televised on DrexelDragons.TV which allowed many Dragons fans to sit at home watching what should have been a heavily favored UNCW team be controlled by Drexel in the first half. It is without a doubt that many were probably waiting for the other shoe to drop after the scoring droughts that this team showed in the JMU and Towson games of recent weeks. Drexel, however, played one of their best first halves of the year and went to the locker room with a 37-32 lead for the first time since the College of Charleston game (credit: Rob Brooks for this one).
All of the credit for the five point lead goes to a rare display of offensive consistency. The Dragons shot 52% from the field in the first half which was almost double of what they had shown in previous games. Shot selection was solid and the bigs were involved. Rodney Williams and Kaz Abif combined for 7-9 shooting and 17 of Drexel’s 37 points, and that was with Williams spending a good chunk of time on the bench with two fouls. The team also shot 3-5 from downtown. They limited their attempts from outside, something that had not been a sweet spot for them as of late. There was a lot to be happy about in the first twenty minutes of ball, and a lot of things that appeared to be working.
The second half, however, saw a number of changes that were visible in the stat line. The Dragons’ 52% shooting was followed up with a 37% display which still is pretty admirable by Drexel standards but was a definite dip. Abif and Williams maintained a solid 50% shooting tick going a combined 5-10 while Tavon Allen, whose lone make had been a last second three pointer in the first half, followed that up with a 1-7 shooting display in the second half.
Rodney Williams once again earned the player of the game nod, not only for his team leading 17 points but more for his 7 blocked shots. He was solid on the defensive end of the ball and when coupled with Abif, the pair just seem to be so comfortable with each other. They bring a spark to the court that the Dragons seem to lack otherwise. Despite the efforts of the Drexel’s two key big men, UNC Wilmington wore the Dragons down and ultimately worked a 10 point swing in the second frame to walk away with a 77-72 win.
After four sub par performances, Rashann London had what would probably be described as one of his best games this season. Full disclosure: he had three fouls in the first nine minutes of the second half which resulted in combined 2 of 3 free throw shooting by Chris Flemming and CJ Bryce. After committing the third foul London made two free throws, a three pointer, and a layup while not committing any additional fouls or turnovers. His three pointer with 3:53 to go pulled the Dragons within one. Thirty seconds later, with Drexel down 67-61, he found himself back on the bench and did not make another appearance. London finished the game with 12 points on 4-5 shooting. His only miss was a three pointer early in the second half.
London was replaced on the floor by Sammy Mojica, who also had a solid shooting game putting up 9 points on 3-7 shooting. All of his points were on three makes from beyond the arc where he shot 3-4. This would be the final sub that Bruiser Flint would make for the game as he decided to play out the last three and a half minutes with a lineup of Kaz Abif, Rodney Williams, Sammy Mojica, Terrell Allen, and Tavon Allen. Since three of those five players have already been discussed above, lets take a look at the other two.
Terrell Allen again showed his youth. Much like the Penn State game, it was evident that opponents were getting in his head. UNCW took a physical approach to defending Terrell and he seemed to suffer because of it. Allen has a temper that he needs to learn how to control. Coupled with that, however, is a ton of talent and coming from a high school program like Dematha, one would expect him to get this part of his game locked down. Terrell finished the game with 8 points. He shot 2-8 in the first half but controlled the offensive end of his game in the second frame taking just two shots and missing both. His contribution, however, was not in the points column. Terrell finished the game with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and just 2 turnovers. His free throw shooting suffered, but that also could potentially be a reflection of the mental part of his game.
Then there is Tavon Allen. As with every other late game situation for the Dragons when the game has been close, Tavon was once again on the floor. We’ve seen a travel against Penn, and a series of shot attempts in the Iona game that no Drexel fan would like to relive. Add to that many off balance shots, forced plays, and a few botched inbound passes. When pressured in the late game situation, Tavon seems to come unraveled and yet time and time again he finds himself on the court.
The big question that one must ask from the end of this game is why him? Tavon was 1-7 in the second half and 0-5 from three. He contributed four rebounds, and one has to appreciate his length on the defensive side of the ball which is invaluable, especially with the style of basketball that Bruiser Flint coaches, but why keep him on the floor on the offensive side of the court? Out of the three guards who regularly shoot three’s for the Dragons, Mojica was 3-4. London was 2-3. Allen finished the game 1-7. Based on his performance in this game, and the in-the-clutch performances that he has had in this season alone, one must ask themselves why he was on the floor in this situation.
When trailing by 6, a coach is left with a few choices: go with your most consistent performers in this game, or go with your most consistent clutch performers this season. Tavon Allen was neither of these options yet he was on the floor for the last three and a half minutes of the game. After the game, Bruiser Flint once again discussed his team’s perceived inability to make tough plays, and in this case, drive the ball which he felt that UNCW “dared them” to do. Once again, the onus of this loss was placed on the shoulder of the players.
In a game that featured several botched inbounds plays, a shift in shot selection from what worked in the first half, and what can be viewed as questionable personnel selection in a close and late situation, one has to ask themselves when Bruiser Flint will take any responsibility for the performance of his team on the court. These kids are playing their hearts out when they are on the court, but when they are not given the tools to enhance their performance, or are put in situations where tough play and good shot selection will pay off, we are left with what will continue to be a painful situation for the players and fans alike.
Drexel returns to the hardwood of the DAC on Thursday night as they look to avenge last week’s 69-50 loss to Towson. After that it is homecoming weekend! Let’s hope that we can fill up the DAC for what will be a big game against emerging CAA powerhouse Hofstra on Saturday afternoon.