The below is written by Scott Kier, basking in the strange and confusing glow of victory.
Final Score: Drexel 57, Elon 56
Drexel Player of the Game: Terrell Allen
Key to the Game: Know your opponent
Next Game: Noon, Saturday March 6, at Royal Farms Arena, Baltimore, MD - CAA Tournament
Pillow Fight Friday has become a not-so-proud tradition in the CAA. The bottom four teams face off to see who will be lucky enough to play the top two teams in the conference. It has not been often that a Bruiser Flint coached team made a Pillow Fight appearance with last year's loss to Charleston marked by Damion Lee's absence due to injury being the prior showing.
Having looked markedly better over the last couple of games and on the heels of a tough loss to Northeastern in the season finale last Saturday, the Dragons came into Friday's match up with 8th seeded Elon with nothing to lose. They hit the court with a level of passion and fight that had rarely been seen in the 2015-16 campaign.
Kazembe Abif looked like a man possessed as he helped power the Dragons to a 10-0 start forcing an early Elon timeout. Despite the higher seed's attempt to regroup, Elon's shooting never seemed to get on track in the first half. Known for winning games not on the defensive end but more with their ability to connect from 3, Elon went 1-7 from beyond the arc and shot a Drexel-like 34.5% from the first half.
The Dragons, on the other hand, were led by Tavon Allen's 4-6 shooting, all from 3, as the team followed suit shooting 47.8% from the field. They went to the locker room with a 34-21 lead, despite having 9 turnovers to Elon's 5. The Phoenix just could not capitalize on Drexel's missteps. The highlight of the half came with 7:15 remaining when the Dragons extended their lead to 17 points with a Mohammed Bah two handed dunk. The forward, who had fallen out of favor over the last quarter of the season, put on a great display tonight finishing the game with 6 points and 4 rebounds in just 8 minutes.
The half time talk in the stands revolved around what number a fan should be comfortable with as a Drexel lead at the break. 20? 25? 30? Nobody was able to say, but there was some level of apprehension despite the accompanied optimism as the Dragons hit the floor for the second frame.
Drexel hit the floor in the second half looking as if they had the air let out of their tires. A 6 point run by Elon to start things off prompted a Bruiser timeout. Bad calls or not, Drexel amassed 7 fouls in under 6 minutes to start the half putting Elon in the bonus for the last 14 minutes of the game. Bruiser used his second timeout with 11:17 remaining when Elon took the a 44-43 lead. It was their first lead of the game.
At the dreaded under 4 mark, Drexel trailed 55-51 which has not been a good position for the Dragons to be in over the course of the last three seasons. Elon was on a 41-20 run since trailing by 17, and appeared to have taken control of a Drexel team that looked like a completely different bunch than the one who had started the game.
Drexel kept things close, aided by some missed free throws by Elon and hampered by their 15 turnovers. With 37 seconds remaining, Bruiser Flint used what some in the stands most assuredly thought was the last timeout of his Drexel tenure. With Drexel trailing 56-55, the Drexel pep band played Europe's hit song The Final Countdown from the sideline. It felt strangely appropriate.
All the while Bru sat at the center of the huddle drawing up what might be considered one of the most important offensive sets of his career. Many, myself included, expected to see Tavon Allen come off of a ball screen for a mid range jumpshot. Instead, it was freshman Terrell Allen who found himself taking Drexel's final shot of the game: a jumper from the elbow that swished through the net and brought the Drexel faithful in the building to their feet.
Much like many of Bruiser Flint's key coaching wins throughout his career, the defining moments of this game came on the defensive side of the ball. Drexel forced Elon to use their second timeout resulting in an Elon inbound from under the basket. Tight man defense sent Elon back to the huddle to use their final timeout.
This time, Elon quickly got the ball in to point guard Luke Eddy. An off-balanced jumpshot bricked away and was recovered by Sammy Mojica. Drexel excitedly made their way down the court to dribble out what felt like their longest eight seconds of basketball this season. As the buzzer sounded, the 9th seeded Dragons found themselves victorious by a score of 57-56.
Friday's game was a game of firsts. It was the first time this season that Drexel came from behind when trailing late in a close game. It was the first time that Tavon Allen was not the focal point of the offense in the clutch. It was the first time that A Bruiser Flint coached team beat a team that had a better regular season record than them. Finally, it was Bru's first Pillow Fight Friday victory.
All in all, heartburn aside, it was one heck of an exciting game, and as a Drexel fan it left behind the sweet, sweet taste of victory. The Dragons need just three more wins to make history in what might be the only outcome of this tournament that could possibly save their coach's job. It would be a shame to see all of the blog's hard work at scouting coaches go to waste, but it would be a sacrifice worth making if it meant that Drexel got to dance just one time.
The Dragons return to the Royal Farms Arena on Saturday to take on first seeded Hofstra. You can bet that this Drexel fan will be in the stands to root his team on one more time.