Having already been defeated by them at home Jan. 6, the Drexel University women’s basketball team lost 75-65 on the road against Elon University Jan. 15, giving the Phoenix a regular season sweep of the Dragons.
With three-time defending Colonial Athletic Association champion James Madison University having a far weaker roster than we are accustomed to seeing, it looked as if this would finally be the year that Denise Dillon’s squad took home the CAA Championship and got to the NCAA Tournament.
Their early season upset of tenth-ranked Syracuse University and their subsequent seven-game winning streak had them ranked by ESPN as the number one mid-major team in the nation. However, that couldn’t seem more distant after the Dragons’ second loss to Elon in just nine days.
The Jan. 6 meeting between these two teams was a defensive battle, with Drexel shooting 29.4 percent from the floor and Elon shooting 39 percent from the floor. In that meeting, Elon pulled out the 48-45 victory. Compared to the first game they played, the rematch between the Dragons and the Phoenix was a shootout, particularly in the second half.
Senior guard Jessica Pellechio led the offense with 24 points and continued on her three-point shooting hot streak, connecting on six of 12 triples. After being held scoreless in the first quarter, Pellechio came alive in the second and dropped 13 of Drexel’s 14 points that period.
Despite Pellechio’s offensive outburst, the Dragons were unable to take control of the game in the first half because Shay Burnett and Lauren Brown both got off to strong starts for Elon. Burnett and Brown each had 8 points through the opening two frames for the Phoenix, which helped to give Elon a 36-31 lead at the break.
It did not help the Dragons that juniors Kelsi Lidge and Sara Woods, two of their key defensive players, both had three personal fouls before halftime. Lidge, the team’s only junior captain, picked up her fourth foul just after the halfway point of the third quarter, forcing her to sit out for the rest of the period. Her absence on the defensive end was felt immediately as Elon scored 15 points off of a near perfect six of seven shooting from the floor in the four minutes and 13 seconds that Lidge sat on the bench in the third quarter.
Regardless of their defensive struggles in the third quarter, Pellechio’s shooting kept Drexel in the game. She made three more three-pointers in the second half, including a clutch shot that tied the game 47-47 at the 3:48 mark in the third quarter.
After Pellechio netted a mid-range jumper at the 3:07 mark in the third, this time tying the game at 49-49, it appeared as if Drexel was going to take control of the game. However, Elon closed out the quarter on a furious 11-2 run to regain control of momentum and take a 60-51 lead into the closing period.
The Phoenix scored after an offensive rebound on their first possession in the fourth, and from that point on, they didn’t look back.
Senior Sarah Curran ended up scoring seven points in the fourth, but it was too little too late for the Dragons. Drexel couldn’t stop Lauren Brown, who ended the game with 19 points on three of six shooting from deep.
It was a disappointing loss for a Drexel team that had a chance reclaim control over its own destiny in the CAA standings. Now sitting at 3-2 in conference games, with both losses coming against 5-0 Elon, the Dragons will need help from their CAA counterparts if they want to capture the top-seed for the postseasons tournament.
The weekend wasn’t a total wash for Drexel, who annihilated the University of North Carolina at Wilmington 71-38 in a road game Jan. 13.
In the victory, Drexel featured a balanced scoring attack with three players finishing in double digits for points.
Curran led the way for Drexel by scoring 17 points on eight of 14 shooting from the floor. Senior Meghan Creighton had the next highest mark with 12, and freshman Ana Ferariu was the final Dragon to hit double figures, pouring in 10 points on five of seven shooting from the field. Freshman Bailey Greenberg also had a solid outing, posting nine points while shooting a perfect four of four on field goal attempts.
Balanced scoring has been a huge part of Drexel’s success this season, and with the win against UNCW, the Dragons improved to 10-0 in games that they have at least three players score in the double figures. However, in games where two or less players hit 10 points, like the Jan. 15 loss to Elon, Drexel has a 2-4 record.
Drexel currently sits at 12-4 on the season and 3-2 in the season. The Dragons are in fourth place in the conference, trailing 5-0 Elon, 4-1 JMU and 3-1 College of William & Mary. With 13 games remaining in conference play, Drexel has plenty of time to try to move up in the standings. The next game for the Dragons will be a home contest against College of Charleston Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.