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M. bball pulls upset over William & Mary | The Triangle
Men's Basketball

M. bball pulls upset over William & Mary

Forward Rodney Williams dunks against St. Joseph's University on Nov. 16. (Ken Chaney - The Triangle)
Forward Rodney Williams dunks against St. Joseph’s University on Nov. 16. (Ken Chaney – The Triangle)
In the Colonial Athletic Association’s biggest upset of the year, the Drexel men’s basketball team topped The College of William & Mary, 80-66, Feb. 28.

Playing in the last game of the regular season, the Dragons used a dynamite first half and held off the top team in the conference despite playing with just seven active players because of injuries. Senior guard Freddie Wilson scored a career-high 24 points on eight-of-12 shooting from the field, and junior guard Tavon Allen added a season-high 22 points and six rebounds.

The win ended a four-game losing streak for the Dragons. With the win, they finished 11-18 in the regular season and 9-9 in CAA play.

The game, which was William & Mary’s senior night, began as expected. The Tribe took a 13-4 lead over the Dragons in the first eight and a half minutes and looked poised to run away with the seemingly uneven contest.

But Wilson, Allen and the Dragons put on a shooting clinic in the final 11 minutes and 20 seconds of the first stanza. Drexel out-scored William & Mary, 33-8, to close out the first half, including scoring the final 14 points. The Tribe didn’t score a single point in the final 5:24 of the half, and the Dragons hit seven three-pointers on 12 attempts.

In the first six minutes of the 33-8 run, Allen and Wilson hit a combined six three-pointers to flip the 13-4 Tribe lead into a 26-21 advantage for the Dragons.

Tribe senior Marcus Thornton, who became the school’s all-time leading scorer in the team’s last outing, scored just five points in the first half on six shots. Thornton finished with 19 points on 17 shots.

The Dragons’ 33-point outburst to end the first half would prove to be the difference maker. The Tribe slashed Drexel’s lead to nine points a couple of times in the second half, but they never drew any closer than that.

And Wilson and Allen kept hitting their big shots, something the guards couldn’t say in the Dragons’ 58-44 loss to Delaware Feb. 26. In that loss to the Blue Hens, Wilson scored 12 first-half points before missing all seven of his second-half shot attempts. Against the Tribe, Wilson scored 12 points in the first half and 12 in the second, an astounding performance from the inconsistent guard.

Drexel’s strategy in the first half, especially during its 33-8 run, was to allow William & Mary shoot from its spots — namely, the three-point arc — and instead focus on out-rebounding the Tribe.

The approach worked in the first 20 minutes, almost to a T, as the Tribe missed 16 of 24 shot attempts and the Dragons won the first-half rebounding battle, 19-12. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Drexel had grabbed 36 rebounds to William & Mary’s 24.

Nine of Drexel’s rebounds came courtesy of sophomore forward Rodney Williams, who stepped up in a big way for head coach James “Bruiser” Flint. Williams scored 18 points and grabbed the aforementioned nine rebounds, dominating the paint in a way that was previously unseen from Drexel forwards this season.

Along with freshman forward Tyshawn Myles and sophomore forward Mohamed Bah, Williams and the Dragons limited the Tribe to just five offensive rebounds on 28 missed shots. The team’s three forwards combined for 30 points and 25 rebounds.

The Dragons will play in the first round of the CAA tournament on March 6. With the University of Delaware’s win over Towson University, the Dragons finished as the No. 7 seed in the conference. They will face the No. 10 seed, the College of Charleston, at 8:30 p.m. Drexel won both meetings between the two teams this season.