By the time Drexel men’s basketball head coach Bruiser Flint made his way to meet radio announcer Rob Brooks after Nov. 14’s 65-48 loss to the University of Colorado, he’d had enough of his sport coat.
“I worked too hard tonight,” the animated head coach said with a laugh. “Too much sweat.”
It was the first game of the season for the Dragons, and Flint was a little out of his personal coaching shape. Typically one of the most animated coaches in the country, he had a lot to yell about as he paced the Coors Events Center sideline that Friday evening.
His team looked as rusty as he felt.
The Dragons started the game 1-of-11 from the floor, a dismal shooting start that foreshadowed the entire offensive game for the young team. Drexel finished 16-of-55 from the floor, good for 29.1 percent. The team made just seven field goals in the second half on 26 attempts, cobbling up 19 points in the final 20 minutes after entering the break with 29.
Flint said after the game that his team simply needed to make shots to stay competitive against the Buffaloes.
“Got to make baskets,” Flint explained. “I thought today we got great looks, but the start of the second half killed us. We came down five, six straight times, had great looks at the rim and didn’t finish.
“They scored, and the next thing you know it’s double figures. And then in the heat of the game we came down and charged in a nine-point game. We took our inside-out three shots, long threes, they got a basket, and now the next thing you know it’s an 18-point game.”
It was a consistent problem throughout the night for the Dragons, missing shots when black-and-gold defenders were nowhere to be seen or felt.
It was to be expected from freshman guard Rashann London, who started in the first game of his collegiate career. London missed a few wide open shots throughout the night, finishing 1-of-5 from the field. He didn’t lack the confidence or guts to take shots; he just lacked execution.
But the wide-open misses weren’t expected from junior guard Damion Lee, who returned to game action for the first time since Nov. 27, 2013, when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Madison Square Garden.
Lee began his comeback by missing his first three shots of the night, and while he found a groove shortly thereafter, knocking down two three-pointers, he missed his fair share of what should have been easy points.
On one occasion in the first half, London found Lee wide open on the right wing behind the arc, not a single Colorado defender within five feet. Lee squared up to the basket but seemed to rush his release and left it slightly short and to the right of the hoop; the Buffaloes grabbed the rebound, pushed the pace the other way, and Colorado guard Askia Booker scored a layup and a subsequent foul shot.
It was a huge six-point swing in favor of Colorado at the time, something that happened far too often: missed shots turning into points for the Buffaloes.
Flint said the team committed what he calls “shot turnovers” in the second half; that is, bad shots that turn into offensive chances for the opponent, and he was right.
Booker, who scored just one point in the first half, was able to string together a pair of dynamic fastbreak finishes, both of which ended in fouls on Dragons.
The shot turnovers led to a number of transition buckets for Colorado, which Flint said was the biggest problem he saw with his squad in the second half.
“I thought in the first half we did a good job of keeping them in the half court,” Flint said. “I thought they just got way too many easy looks in transition in the second half. We did a bad job of stopping the ball; Booker got in the lane a little bit and made some tough ones.”
And the quick points in transition eventually doomed the Dragons, leaving a team full of opportunities — three more shot attempts than the Buffaloes — short on execution.
Defense needs improvement
Flint, known to be a stalwart of tight defensive basketball, said that despite keeping Colorado to 65 points and 42.3 percent shooting on the night, he wasn’t pleased with the way his team played defensively, especially the three freshmen who saw playing time.
“We’ve got to play better defensively,” Flint said after the game. “Our younger guys, at times, were on their heels.
“But you expect that in their first game. They’ve got understand you’ve got to take up the challenge, and that’s why [Colorado guard Askia] Booker got it going.”
Booker put a hurting on freshman guard Rashann London in the second half, beating him time and again down the court. Booker scored twice in transition, and kept London out of defensive position for a good part of the second half.
“I know he didn’t shoot the ball, but he got in the lane and made them call some stuff,” Flint said of Booker.
Freshman limits turnovers
One area Flint thought his team performed well was the turnover margin. Last season the Dragons were one of the top teams in the country in terms of limiting turnovers with senior point guard Frantz Massenat in charge of the offense; this year, they have a freshman in Rashann London controlling the offense.
But London finished the game with just one turnover, and the team with 12, two fewer than Colorado.
“We actually didn’t do a bad job [with turnovers],” Flint said afterwards. “In our scrimmages I thought we turned the ball over a little bit.”
He did say, however, that he expected more from his experienced players in terms of controlling the ball.
“I thought [Lee] and [forward Rodney Williams] had some bad turnovers at bad times. We did a good job of taking care of the ball.”
Lee and Williams combined for six of the Dragons’ 12 turnovers.
Wasting no time
The Dragons have a 3 a.m. wake-up time Nov. 15 for a 6 a.m. flight back to Philadelphia. Flint wants his players back in the city to prepare for the Monday, Nov. 17 home opener against fellow City 6 member Saint Joseph’s University, and he’s not worried about the quick turnaround.
“We’ve got to be ready to play,” Flint explained after the game. “We’ll play three games in four days next week [in the Charleston Classic tournament], so we’ve got to be ready to play. We’re going to be doing quick turnarounds.
“If you’re going to win a tournament, you’ve got to play every day. So you might as well learn it early, because you’re going to end up having to do it late.”
Flint said he knew the beginning of the season would be tough for the team, going against high-quality power conference opponents with short rest in between competitions.
That said, he still expects his team to perform better than they did Nov. 14.
“We’ve got to tighten it up a little bit,” Flint said. “We did some things we needed to do, but we’ve got to finish it, and that’s what we didn’t do today.”