After Drexel’s 70-64 loss to Hofstra that saw them blow a 13 point lead, I decided to take a closer look at a spot that I have seen as a glaring weak spot in Drexel’s game this season. By ability or pure luck the Dragons have taken many games down to the wire, but finishing on the better side of the ledger has been rare. I wanted to dig into why this was happening.
One of the marks of a truly successful team is how they perform in close situations late in the game. It says a lot about the game plans that a coach draws up in the huddle and speaks to the ability of a team’s players to perform in the clutch. To define “close and late” situations, I decided to specifically look at games that saw a seven point difference at the 4 minute mark. Why did I decide on those numbers? The seven point difference was largely arbitrary but it creates a difference just outside of two possessions. If each team runs the full 30 second shot clock in the last four minutes of the game they will each have four possessions.
As for the four minute cutoff, that marks the time at which point teams get a free timeout at the next stoppage to allow television stations to sell you beer and other cheap goods, it is the final media timeout of the game. This allows teams to go to the sideline and it gives coaches a chance to regroup their players and send them on the floor with a game plan for the endgame.
From the 50,000 foot view, Drexel is 2-11 when the game comes down to the wire. On average Drexel has trailed their opponents by 2.6 points at the four minute mark. Drexel has scored 104 points in close and late game situations as compared to 128 by their opponents.
Breaking it down further, Drexel is shooting 30.2% (29 for 96) in late game situations. Their 2-point field goal average is 26.8% (15 for 56) and they are shooting 35% (14 for 40) from beyond the arc. If one was to point out a bright spot in all of these numbers it would be their performance at the free throw line. Drexel players are shooting 84.6% (33 for 39) from the charity stripe. Tavon Allen is 10 for 11, and the team’s two main big players Rodney Williams and Kaz Abif are a combined 9 for 11.
Taking a look at shooting by players tells us a lot about the team. Here is the breakdown from highest effective field goal percentage to lowest after the under four mark, statistics included:
- Rashann London – 53.8%. The sophomore combo guard tossed up the second most three pointers on the team at a 44.4% clip (4 for 9) and was just 1 for 4 from inside the arc. His numbers are impressive considering that he took just 1.7 three pointers per game last season making just 27% of those. This year he's only shot 28% from three but has come up big at crunch time.
- Terrell Allen – 50%. Terrell shot just 27.3% from two (3 for 11) but had his average brought up with his 3 point shooting totaling 75% (3 for 4). It is also worth mentioning that he had no turnovers and 5 steals. That is pretty impressive for a freshman.
- Kazembe Abif – 40%. Kaz’s contributions go far beyond his shooting. He hustles and is the heart and soul of this team. While his average was 40%, that includes two missed three pointers (0 for 2) leaving him to go 4 for 8 from inside the arc for a 50% clip. He was also 7 for 9 from the free throw line, and committed 5 turnovers tying him for second on the team with Rodney Williams.
- Tavon Allen – 31.9%. Allen has taken 37.5% of the team’s shots in the under four time frame. Overall, he is 9 for 36. From inside the arc he is 4 for 16, and outside he is 5 for 20. It should also be noted that he is 10 for 11 from the free throw line. He has committed a team high 8 turnovers, which accounted for a third of the team total. In the two “close and late” games that Drexel won, Tavon Allen did not take a field goal.
- Sammy Mojica – 30.7%. This one was surprising. One would think that Sammy’s percentages would be a little better but he is just 1 for 8 (12.5%) from two and shot 40% (2 for 5) from three. He was, however, a perfect 5 for 5 from the free throw line. Sammy is just a sophomore and his court time last year was spotty. With time these numbers should increase.
- Rodney Williams – 22.2%. Maybe it is the foul trouble or this team seeming to slip back into their “guards first” scheme late in games, but Rodney Williams attempted the least number of field goals in this bunch with just 9. Kaz had the second lowest with 10. Unfortunately, Rodney made just 2 of his nine attempts. In total, out of the thirteen games, Rodney fouled out of 4 of them, and missed a fifth (Penn State) with his ankle injury which also resulted in him being largely a non-factor in their next contest against Penn.
Ultimately what does all of this information tell us? First, it shows us that the Dragons do not have that clutch shooter to turn to that they have had in years past with players like Chris Fouch, Frantz Massenat, and Damion Lee. Combine these numbers with the dreaded “eyeball test” and this team needs to change things in the huddle. They need to stop abandoning what is working in these games in the other 36 minutes of the contest, and stick to the initial game plan or draw up a play that creates the right open looks for the right players. Rushed, off balanced shots just are not cutting it, especially in late game situations.
The Dragons also need to do a better job of maintaining possession. In the 788 non close and late minutes that the team has played they have had 224 turnovers. They have 24 turnovers in 57 minutes of close and late play, which is a 74% increase. And since the Dragons have been trailing for the vast majority of that time, they weren't even facing a press!
From looking over these numbers one can realize just how close this team has come to a much better season. One can call it a failure to execute, but I still have to ask, what exactly are they trying to execute? What plan has been laid out for them? What goes on in the huddle? In tomorrow's post we'll look back at a larger sample size to try and see what trends exist that may be holding our Dragons back.