In the first eight games of the season, the Drexel men’s basketball team had an identity, albeit one it wanted to shake. The Dragons limited opponents’ scoring but couldn’t convert for themselves. It wasn’t a winning recipe, but it was one that was familiar for fans.
Then they dropped 70 points on 44.8 percent shooting and still managed to lose the game.
Just as Drexel looked to be figuring out its shooting woes, the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York Bulls hung 80 points on the Dragons Dec. 16, the most points allowed by head coach James “Bruiser” Flint’s team all season, and Drexel left New York with an 80-70 loss to the Bulls.
Freshman guard Rashann London scored a career-high 17 points on an efficient seven of nine shooting from the field, and junior guard Damion Lee scored 24 points and grabbed five rebounds.
But, for the first time since late November, scoring wasn’t the problem for the Dragons. It was the other end of the floor that doomed Flint’s team.
Typically a stalwart defensive squad, Drexel allowed the Bulls to get open shots from the floor and easy buckets in the paint. Buffalo took advantage of the invitation, scoring 42 of its 80 points in the painted area. The Dragons entered the contest allowing just 58.6 points per game, but the Bulls had 38 points in the first 20 minutes and weren’t going to be held back by a porous defensive effort.
“We played without discipline on defense,” Flint said after the game. “We played a little bit better on offense, but we didn’t play with any discipline on the defensive end, and it cost us.”
Buffalo shot only 33 percent from behind the arc, making six of its 18 attempts, but four of those conversions came in the second stanza, including a pair from guard Jarryn Skeete that turned a three-point game into a nine-point lead for the Bulls.
Flint said he had warned his players during the week and before the game that the Bulls liked to drive along the baseline and kick for three-pointers. His team just didn’t defend that play well in the second half, and the lack of execution killed the Dragons.
“Like I said in the pregame, this team is a pretty good scoring team,” Flint said. “They’ve got guys who can shoot the ball. We just gave them too many wide-open opportunities, especially in the second half when we got the game kind of tight.”
As for the points in the paint, Flint said he was unimpressed with the effort from his big men: sophomore forwards Rodney Williams and Mohamed Bah.
“Rod and Mo, they didn’t have a good one today,” Flint said. “They didn’t play well. They went for every pump fake that the guy gave them.”
The two fell into foul trouble early on, and neither played more than 25 minutes; it was the first time that has been the case all season long. The lack of their presence under the hoop gave Buffalo clearance to attack the paint against freshman forward Tyshawn Myles, who Flint actually praised after the game for his play. The freshman just never had a chance of stopping the Bulls’ inside game.
Drexel’s next opponent doesn’t bode well for its defensive struggles. The Dragons head to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to take on The Pennsylvania State University Dec. 20. The Nittany Lions are averaging 72.2 points per game and have scored at least 70 points per game in six games thus far this season.
If Flint’s team has any chance of topping Penn State, the defense will have to be much improved, starting with the big men and ending with execution of the defensive game plan, and Flint knows it.
This loss was about the defense, he said.
“We’ve got to get ourselves together.”