The Drexel University men’s basketball team earned its first win of the season Nov. 17 against the rival University of Pennsylvania 61-59. However, the Dragons were unable to carry that momentum into the DirecTV Classic, losing two of their three games.
The Dragons put in a more complete effort against Penn than they did in their first two games against Kent State University and Illinois State University. However, Drexel lost senior guard Chris Fouch, their top scorer, to a fractured ankle in the process. Fouch was injured six minutes into the second half after falling awkwardly on his right foot.
“He’s a big leader for us,” redshirt freshman forward Tavon Allen said. “He gets us going in the games; just his voice in the locker room is missed.”
The Dragons entered the Battle of 33rd Street with an 0-2 record, while Penn entered with a 1-2 record. The Drexel student section at the Palestra was packed, with members of the DAC Pack holding signs taunting the Quakers’ unwillingness to visit the John A. Daskalakis Athletic Center for a game.
Allen came into the game just two and a half minutes into the first half for the first time in his college career. Allen didn’t make an immediate impact and was taken out of the game just six minutes later after scoring no points and missing a layup. The Dragons led for most of the first half until the last two minutes, when Penn went on a 6-0 run and took a 31-30 lead into the locker room.
The Quakers came out of halftime shooting and took a quick eight-point lead. Six minutes into the half, Allen, after Fouch went down, had his number called once again and kept the Dragons in the game. Allen hit back-to-back three pointers and really brought Drexel back into the game. Allen hit a jumper at the 7:06 mark to put the Dragons ahead 51-49. The Dragons’ lead would increase to a high of seven points with under a minute remaining, but Penn would not go gently into that good night. Penn got to within one with 24 seconds remaining, but the Dragons were able to make a stop and win their first game.
Allen scored 15 points in his first Drexel appearance, all in the second half. He played just 24 minutes, but during the second half he was unstoppable.
“I felt like I really had to step up today and contribute to my team, play a lot of defense,” Allen said after the win against Penn. “My teammates found me in the right position. I just had to knock them down.”
“I’ve been telling him [that] his opportunity is going to be there [and] he’s going to have to take advantage of it, and he did tonight,” head coach James “Bruiser” Flint said. “He was a lifesaver today.”
Junior big man Dartaye Ruffin had 15 points and seven rebounds, and senior forward Daryl McCoy had a whopping 14 rebounds. McCoy’s defense in the second half also helped lead the Dragons to the win.
“I thought Daryl did a great job on Fran Dougherty in the last 10 minutes of the game,” Flint said. “In the last 10 minutes of the game, Daryl said ‘I got him,’ and he got him.
“I told Daryl that he’s on the milk carton … because the first two games I hadn’t seen him … but today he came and did what Daryl McCoy does.”
Drexel made its way to Anaheim, Calif., to participate in the DirecTV Classic Nov 22-25. Fouch’s presence, along with sophomore guard Damion Lee’s, was missed in the first game of the DirecTV Classic against Saint Mary’s College of California. The Gaels defeated the Dragons 76-64 off an outstanding performance by guard Matthew Dellavedova.
The Dragons never held a significant lead and never led after the 12-minute mark in the first half. Dellavedova scored a career high 32 points in the Gaels’ win. Junior guard Frantz Massenat was the Dragons leading scorer with 17 points on six of 15 from the field. Allen had another high-scoring game with 16 points.
Drexel then faced Xavier University in the first round of the consolation bracket with Lee back in the lineup. The Dragons were down seven with three minutes remaining in the game and closed the gap to one with a minute remaining. But the Dragons couldn’t finish the comeback, losing 69-65.
Massenat and Lee tried to lead a comeback in the waning seconds of the game, but the Dragons came up short. Lee scored a team-high 19 points on six of 13 from the field, while Massenat scored 18 points.
In the seventh-place game of the tournament, the Dragons finally broke through and won a game against Rice University 55-47. Lee scored 16 points in 30 minutes on the floor in his second game back from an injury he sustained against Illinois State.
The Dragons carried for the entire first half, but the Owls completed an 11-0 run with 13:57 remaining in the second half. However, the Dragons kept their composure and regained the lead, led by Massenat. He scored 20 points on 7-10 from the field and a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc.
The win was a nice way to finish off the West Coast road trip, but Flint is still very concerned about the team’s lackadaisical play on defense.
“The problem I have with my big guys is that they aren’t defending the way I think they should be,” he said.
“Guys have got to step up and be ready to play defensively. Sometimes it means a lot of independent matchups, and we haven’t handled [those] that well. We’ve been getting our butts kicked,” Flint continued.
The Dragons will try to turn their season around Dec. 1 against Rider University. The Broncs are 4-4 overall and 2-2 on the road. Tipoff will be at noon.