There are few cautionary tales that haven’t been written about the men’s basketball team this season. The fans of the Blue and Gold have had to take every win with a grain of salt and every loss with a dose of reality. This week brought both, and as usual, Drexel’s season continues on without certainty of where exactly this team could go.
It began with a home game against James Madison University.
It was generally a sloppy game, but the Dragons got the better of JMU, as they capitalized on solid defense early in the first half and never looked back. After grabbing a 9-4 lead in the first few minutes, the Dukes went scoreless from the 13:30 mark until the 3:40 mark of the first half.
Head coach Bruiser Flint was happy with his team’s defense during that 10-minute stretch.
“We played well defensively,” Flint said when asked about the Dragons’ defensive efforts. “I actually thought we did a good job of being on top of them and making them score points over top of us. I thought we did a great job with our ball pressure.”
It’s interesting — by the end of the night, there wasn’t a huge disparity in shooting percentages. The Dragons’ defense was just consistently solid, and the offense scored enough in the first half to make light of JMU’s awful stretch from the field.
While the Dragons only shot 41.7 percent, it ended up being their biggest margin of victory since Jan. 2. Frantz Massenat led the team with 14 points and was able to notch his 1,000th collegiate point, becoming the 33rd Dragon ever to do so.
Massenat has had to step up his production and take more shots as of late while Damion Lee continues his rough streak.
After scoring in double digits since the second game of the season, Lee hasn’t hit 10 in his past three outings, averaging just 5.3 points per game. It doesn’t matter how well the defense plays — if Lee continues to play this way, the Dragons’ chances at the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament in March are slim to none. Every competitive team in the CAA has at least two consistent scorers. Without a consistent Lee, the trip to Richmond will be a short one.
The win was a solid one for the Dragons following two losses. It handed the Dukes just their fourth loss in their last 11 games and avenged an eight-point loss back in early January, another tight, defensive contest.
Unfortunately, the Dragons couldn’t keep up the streak, and their poor Thursday habits continued when the George Mason University Patriots came knocking.
In typical Drexel fashion, the Dragons saw their fair share of leads throughout the game, but their inefficient shooting was the ultimate downfall. The entire contest was a tight-fisted affair with both teams having to work for every single shot, and at the end of the first half the total score didn’t even add up to 50 points.
It was a typical CAA contest.
The difference through the first 30 minutes for the Dragons was their ability to hit three-pointers, knocking down six of their 15 attempts in the first half, providing them with an eight-point lead in the second half.
Up by two points at 3:12 into the second half, Derrick Thomas knocked down a three to take a five-point lead. On the following Patriots possession, Daryl McCoy annihilated an Erik Copes layup attempt, and the ball rushed down the court to an eager Massenat, who buried a subsequent three.
It seemed like a recipe for success at the time, with all the momentum heading their way.
And then, in typical fashion, the DAC Pack watched Drexel collapse.
Damion Lee hit a few clutch shots, as he and Derrick Thomas both contributed 16 points, but the 37.5 percent shooting that the team put up on the night simply wasn’t enough to overcome the bad misses.
Dartaye Ruffin’s shooting season continued in frustrating fashion when the game remained close even after the Patriots regained the lead with under three minutes to go. At the one-minute mark, Ruffin had a chance to draw his team within one point. But his string of short-range misses continued, and the miss led to a foul. And the foul led to a loss.
So as the Dragons look to the future with slight trepidation, they can take solace in their next game being a matchup with the woeful Hofstra University Pride. The Pride are coming into the matchup with only three wins since Nov. 21, riding a painful 3-17 stretch that stems from the suspension of four players, including two starters.
The key in this game, to be played at home Feb. 18, will be to lock down on Taran Buie and Stevie Mejia early in the game. Buie and Mejia provide 25 of the Pride’s league-low 58.9 points per game, and if the Dragons can rattle the two guards’ confidence before they find any rhythm, it should be a coast to the finish line.
The key word there is “should.” It “should” be a coast to the finish line, and it “should” be a good confidence booster before the final four games of the season. However, as Drexel has shown all year, “should” is constantly a relative term.