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Drexel MBB notches key win over rival Delaware | The Triangle
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Drexel MBB notches key win over rival Delaware

Photo by Lucas Tang | The Triangle

The Drexel Dragons took on the Delaware Blue Hens in a must-win, nationally televised rivalry game on Monday night. The game had massive implications for the Dragons’ CAA seeding, as they sat on the cusp of securing a top four seed in the standings which would deliver them a coveted double bye in the tournament. On top of this, the Drexel men and women’s basketball teams had won every game against the Blue Hens this season, and with Delaware’s exit from the CAA imminent, Drexel wanted to sweep their rivals to the Conference USA.

When the ball was tipped, it was clear that Delaware wanted to make a statement and jump out to the lead. Delaware attacked the paint and scored the first six points of the contest while Drexel struggled to get any good looks on offense. By the under 12 minute media timeout, Delaware was up 18-8 on the Dragons. Drexel has been plagued by poor starts to games this season, and too often the starting five has let games get out of hand before they even start.

Until the under eight media timeout, Drexel hung around through gritty defense and a few scrappy buckets. This all changed when Coach Zach Spiker made a key substitution, putting Yame Butler, Shane Blakeney, Justin Moore, Luke House and Amari Williams out on the court together. With these five on the court, the Dragons played their best basketball of the night, going on a 15-3 run. This five features four of the most dynamic scorers on the team, while also not sacrificing anything on the defensive end. In particular, the trio of Moore, Butler and Blakeney are the three most talented scoring guards for Drexel. All of them are adept at creating their own shots and scoring the basketball, something that is desperately lacking from many of the lineups Coach Spiker puts on the floor. 

Spiker’s coaching can be pointed to as a main factor for why Drexel won this basketball game, both because of this lineup that he put out, as well as the fact that he switched to a zone defense, a move that entirely stifled the initially hot Delaware offense. With these coaching adjustments, Spiker’s squad entered halftime with a six point lead and all the momentum heading into the second half. 

Referring to this unit, Spiker told The Triangle that, “Every game is different. Rotations can change for a lot of reasons whether it be matchups, foul trouble, performance in practice leading up to the game, special situations or offense/defense scenarios. In that moment they did a really good job competing and executing.” 

Spiker added that this depth “is the strength of our team.”

Coming out of the half, it was more of the same for Drexel, and they extended their lead to 12 points within four minutes of play. With about 14 minutes left, Delaware began gaining some momentum and breaking out of their offensive drought, cutting the lead down to six points. However, after Delaware’s Gerald Drumgoole Jr. scored a tough basket in the paint, fifth year senior guard Christian Ray lashed out at the referees, picking up a technical foul. This costly mental lapse ended Delaware’s run, and Drexel’s lead was not seriously threatened again for the rest of the game. 

In a game of such importance, Drexel relied on their two biggest strengths to win them this game: depth and premier talent. In the CAA, you would be hard pressed to find a better player than Amari Williams. In each and every game, he is the most physically gifted player on the court, and while he lacks some polish to his game, there is not a single game where an opposing center can knock him out of the paint when he attacks the hoop. Williams finished the game with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while filling the rest of the stat sheets with a pair of blocks, assists and a steal. On top of this, Justin Moore showed what he can do when he is selective with his scoring chances. Moore led the game in scoring by notching 20 points on an extremely efficient 8-15 shooting. The floor general also collected four assists and rebounds.

The depth of the squad was also on full display as ten players contributed at least five minutes on the court. One of Coach Zach Spiker’s sayings is, “Sometimes you, sometimes me, always us” and that mantra took center stage this game. Lucas Monroe averages just six points per game, but on multiple occasions this season he has taken control of the court and used his veteran savvy to give the Dragons timely buckets. Monroe made six of seven shots from the floor this game, contributing 13 points and six boards. 

As they head back to West Philadelphia, Drexel will host Northeastern to close out the regular season. The game will be Senior Night and tip off is scheduled for March 2 at 4 p.m.