It didn’t matter to James “Bruiser” Flint that the men’s basketball team played its game Dec. 4 without junior guard Tavon Allen. He didn’t want to talk about how many injuries the team had suffered heading into the game.
“Guys have got to be ready to play,” Flint said. “We can’t cancel the season because we’ve got four, five guys on the sideline. Guys have got to be ready to play, every day.”
The facts remained. Drexel became the first Division I team to lose to a non-Division I team at home this year in its 54-52 loss to the University of the Sciences, a humbling outcome for a team just starting to find its feet a month into the college basketball season.
Devils forward Garret Kerr scored 27 points, including sinking the game-winning three-pointer with 2.1 seconds to play, leading the Devils to the momentous win.
For most of the game, though the lead fluctuated, University of the Sciences seemed in control of the action, something Flint noted repeatedly in his postgame press conference.
“Those guys deserved to win,” a dejected Flint said after the game. “They played harder than us, from start to finish. They came to win the game.
“It was important to them. We told our guys, ‘This is a big game for them, you’d better be ready. They’re not bad.’ We [weren’t ready], and we lost.”
The Devils certainly came ready to take the Dragons for a few rounds.
University of the Sciences head coach David Pauley’s squad took it to Drexel early and often, his entire offensive scheme centered around Kerr. The preseason Division II Player of the Year lived up to the hype, torching the Dragons for 27 points on 19 shots.
Kerr was by far the best player on the floor for all 40 minutes, something Flint said he and his coaches told his players to expect.
But they weren’t ready for what the senior unleashed on them.
“We knew he was going to be a good player,” Flint said after the game. “During the second half we actually did a good job on him. First half, we kept letting him pop and shoot. We kept telling them: he’s not going to post up on you, he’s going to shoot. But every time they pump-faked, we went for it.”
By and large, Flint said he was disappointed with his team’s effort. He thought his players chalked this game up as a win before they even hit Sam Cozen Court, and when they were punched in the mouth, they were sent reeling.
“They beat us from beginning to end,” Flint admitted. “They beat us to every loose ball, every loose rebound, everything. They came ready to play, they came ready to win the game and we didn’t. And that’s what happens.”
His team played a porous first half, but with a 9-2 run to start the second stanza it appeared, however briefly, that the Dragons would be able to salvage a home win against an under-matched Devils team.
The Dragons built various leads of three, four and five points, but were never able to put the game sufficiently out of reach.
After junior Drexel guard Damion Lee slinked through the Devils’ defense for a go-ahead layup with 32 seconds to play, the elusive win was once again in the Dragons’ grasp.
And then, of course, Kerr happened.
The Devils refused to call a timeout, bucking the tried-and-true trend of slowing the game down at the end. Pauley let his men play, and Kerr, the best of them all, was the one whose number was called in the clutch.
From the right wing, in front of the sparsely populated Drexel student section, Kerr drilled a floating, soaring three-point jumper that seemed destined for the bottom of the twine before it left his hand.
Flint said that as Kerr took the Devils’ final shot of the game, he didn’t think his team even deserved to win.
“Honestly, I would’ve felt bad if he missed it,” Flint explained. “Because we didn’t deserve to win the game. They did. Those guys played harder than us, they played tougher than us. They really did.”
Following a demonstrative 59-36 win over the University of Southern Mississippi just four days earlier, the Dragons entered the game looking for a third straight victory. But the offense, lead all year by Lee, who entered the game averaging 21 points per game, had no sense of rhythm.
Flint said after the game he felt like Lee was among the majority of the Drexel players who showed up unprepared for the opponent.
“I don’t even want to get in to [Lee] and what he did do and what he didn’t do and what he can do,” Flint said, dismissively. “I told him, ‘You’re supposed to be the leader of the team. You’ve got to be one of the guys that actually comes ready. If you don’t, we’ve got no shot.’ And that was it right there.”
Flint said he felt like two players came ready to compete — forward Rodney Williams and center Sooren Derboghosian, who finished the night with a combined 23 points and 17 rebounds. For Williams, the game marked his second career double-double and first of the season.
But the exceptional effort from the pair of big men wasn’t nearly enough to salvage what will go down on the schedule, and all over, as a humbling loss for the Dragons.
Drexel (2-5) returns to action Dec. 13, when the Dragons host La Salle University (4-3) at 1 p.m.