The Drexel Dragons defeated the NC A&T Aggies to improve to 8-1 in the CAA conference. This was the second matchup between the two sides as earlier in the month, the Dragons narrowly scrapped out a 67-63 victory in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The Dragons controlled the game in every aspect. Besides an early three-pointer from the Aggies, Drexel maintained a lead for most of the game and never let the Aggies within arm’s reach of them. One of the key factors of their success is their exceptional ability to rebound the ball. They won the rebounding battle 47-34, including 13 offensive boards that led to 11 second chance points.
“You can’t win a championship, you can’t win a ring without rebounds. We need to be a good rebounding team,” said Drexel head coach Zach Spiker.
Forward Lucas Monroe had eight rebounds while Lamar Oden Jr. had nine as he returned to the squad from injury. Monroe also had seven points as he certainly established himself within Drexel’s starting lineup.
Another key part of Drexel’s success is the depth of their bench. The Dragon’s bench combined for 34 points whilst the Aggies’ only managed 8. Redshirt freshman Shane Blakeney made an immediate impact off the bench and scored a career-high 12 points. He scored three three-pointers and a layup that also got called for a foul.
Other members like Jamie Bergens and Yame Butler can successfully fill in for the starters when they need a rest, whilst junior forward Garfield Turner can take over in Amari William’s absence. Turner had nine rebounds with four of them being offensive. Turner also had two of Drexel’s six blocks. Bergens and Butler combined for 12 points off the bench.
“We’ve got a lot of guys which means you’ve got a lot of combinations, and we got to continue to make sure we got the right people out there that complement each other. We still need to continue to make sure we’re putting the right guys in the right situations,” said Spiker regarding his bench’s depth.
Drexel’s rotation of players can keep players fresh and eliminates the need for their starters to play 30-plus minutes every game like other collegiate programs.
“It’s nice when you get subbed out and they bring someone in and there’s no drop-off. We have the CAA Preseason Player of the Year (Amari Williams) and we even sub him out. Everyone trusts each other when they’re on the court. It’s awesome, it takes a lot of stress off,” said Monroe.
Spiker also credits the team’s success to their team’s bond on and off the court as well as Lucas Monroe’s impact in the locker room.
“We’ve got a fun group, we got a group that creates a lot of smiles and that’s awesome, but maybe time and place we need to be locked in. I think our guys respect him because Lucas puts the work in, and I think when you do that it’s easy for guys to respect you,” said Spiker.
Heading into the back half of the season Drexel has been in talks of multiple March Madness brackets as the 13th or 14th seed. They are currently leading the CAA conference and are favorites to win it. Drexel has a two-win cushion over both 6-2 Charleston and UNCW but needs to finish strong and clinch the #1 seed of the CAA conference tournament. They head to New Jersey to face off against Monmouth University.