In their opening game of the Colonial Athletic Association Playoffs, Drexel University defeated Monmouth University 64 to 45— in a game that some believed could have been close. Drexel received a well-rounded performance from the top of the roster to the bottom that rendered the contest anything but competitive.
Monmouth, the 13th seed in the CAA tournament, erupted for 100 points against Hampton in their previous game against Hampton. Some believed that a performance like that could have sparked the Hawks on to a Cinderella run through the higher seeded Dragons. In spite of being ranked as the 349th best team in the NCAA, Monmouth had toppled Drexel earlier in the season, and some thought there was a chance they could pull off another upset in the playoffs. The Dragons, who are tied for 22nd in the nation in fewest points scored against, flexed their defensive strength on Monmouth throughout the contest, quashing any hope for an upset that Monmouth believers had prior to the game.
The Dragons had a terrific start to the game, scoring 18 points before Monmouth got their first bucket over a quarter of the way through the game. Drexel’s vaunted defense is tied for 22nd in the nation in scoring defense, a statistic that measures how many points per game a team gives up. The team’s defense was incredibly effective at not allowing Monmouth to get any easy buckets, at the rim or from three-point range. When Monmouth finally did get on the board, it did not provide much of a spark for the team, and Drexel never relinquished their double-digits lead throughout the entire game.
The Dragons, in many ways, looked to be more powerful in this game than at any point in the season. Amari Williams, the CAA Defensive Player of the Year, lead the way with 16 points and 11 rebounds. It was his 10th double-double of the season, a mark that demonstrates the multi-faceted impact that Williams has on a consistent basis for the Dragons. Drexel has routinely relied on Williams to carry the bulk of the production, both offensively and defensively, and then hoped that any other player on the roster would be able to erupt for over double-digits in points. In this game, the Dragons got quality performances from all eight players that saw the floor, especially Luke House and Lamar Oden Jr..
The player that Drexel fans were most relieved to see on the court was Justin Moore. The freshman point guard had missed almost a month with an injury prior to returning in this contest. While Moore’s scoring touch was not in form, he controlled the game with his elite passing vision when he ran the point. Moore led all players with his eight assists during the game. Moore’s return alleviated the play-making pressure that was placed on Yame Butler’s shoulders for the past month. Butler, who is more of a pure scorer than a point guard, had a rough night offensively, scoring just two points. Despite this, he made his presence felt defensively all game. The team had a noticeably more cohesive offensive game plan as Butler was able to attract multiple defenders every time he touched the ball.
The Dragons will play the University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks on March 5, at 2:30p.m. In their sole previous bout, Drexel narrowly fell in double overtime to the Seahawks.