After beating Hofstra University for their 13th straight win and 21st victory of the season, the Drexel men’s basketball team welcomed the Tribe of The College of William & Mary to the DAC on Valentine’s Day.
The Dragons were able to earn their 14th straight win in a game that went down to the wire versus a very pesky William & Mary squad.
Drexel won 63-61 to improve to 22-5 on the season and 14-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association.
The Dragons were led by junior guard Christopher Fouch against Hofstra. Coming off the bench, Fouch scored a season-high 25 points against the Pride and the 1,000th of his career in a night that was filled with sharp shooting by the Dragons, who shot 60 percent from the field and 59 percent from beyond the arc. Sophomore point guard Frantz Massenat chipped in 20 points and Damion Lee scored 15.
For the third time this season, Lee was named CAA Rookie of the Week.
The Dragons played very well in the first half and took an eight-point lead into the locker room. Hofstra came out strong with an 8-2 run to start the second and cut the lead to just two in the early stages. Led by Fouch, Drexel went on a 10-0 run of their own and did not let the Pride get within eight points for the rest of the game.
Nathaniel Lester of Hofstra led all players with 27 points, but it was not enough as the Dragons won 78-67.
The Dragons were back at the DAC Feb. 14 in what many people thought would be a Valentine’s Day massacre versus the struggling William & Mary.
The Tribe played extremely hard and never quit for a second, but it ultimately wasn’t enough. Drexel’s 14-game winning streak is the third-longest active streak in the nation and just three consecutive conference wins short of the CAA record held by the University of Richmond, a former conference member.
After a slow first five minutes, the Dragons took over. As they extended their lead to double digits, the game began to take the form of many Drexel games this season — a blowout. The lead was nine for the Dragons in the final moments of the first half, but as time expired, the Tribe’s Marcus Thornton buried a three-pointer, cutting the deficit to six as the teams headed to their locker rooms.
“I got to give them credit,” Drexel head coach James “Bruiser” Flint said during the postgame press conference. “They made some tough shots driving to the basket.”
Every time it appeared the Dragons would start to pull away, William & Mary would hit a big shot or make a nice defensive play to swing the momentum back their way.
“I thought it was a great effort by our kids,” William & Mary head coach Tony Shaver said. “I was really proud of our competitive spirit.”
The Dragons were up four at the 10-minute mark but could never close the door. The teams traded buckets, with William & Mary always down by two or three, until they took a 52-51 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the half.
Flint found the positive in being down late in a close game, something his team is not accustomed to. Flint knew that this would really show him how good the Dragons are.
“We’ve been pretty much handling people. I don’t think we’ve been down one with four minutes left all season,” Flint said. “Alright, let’s see where we’re at.”
It became a reality that the winning streak might end with a loss to 18-point underdogs and the Dragons may finally fall at the DAC, but then — the Massenat show began.
“I remember [Bruiser] saying early in the year that late in the game is point guard time,” Massenat said. “So, I figured it was time to be more aggressive.”
Point guard time, indeed.
Massenat completely took over the game, scoring 12 of the Dragons’ last 14 points and 17 of his 22 in the second half.
“He was all right,” Flint said with a grin.
Massenat’s two free throws put the Dragons up 62-58 with 12 seconds left, but on the next possession, the Tribe’s Brandon Britt nailed a three making it a one-point game with three seconds left. Massenat went to the line and made one of two foul shots giving the Dragons a 63-61 lead which they would hang on to as William and Mary could not get a shot off as time expired.
“I think we did what we needed to do at the end of the game,” Flint said.
The Dragons will take their 14-game winning streak to Cleveland, where they will take on 20-7 Cleveland State University Feb. 18 at 11 a.m. as part of ESPN’s BracketBusters series. The game can be seen on ESPNU and is meant to give talented mid-major teams a chance to show off on national television in order to earn some respect come NCAA Tournament selection time.
“I’m excited,” Massenat said. “I think it will be a good challenge for our team.”
After their quick break from CAA play, the Dragons will be taking on James Madison University Feb. 22 at the DAC. The senior-night game will also be televised on ESPNU. JMU has struggled as of late, but Drexel cannot let them sneak up like William & Mary did.
The Dragons will need to be on top of their game for the rest of the season because their winning streak comes with a giant blue-and-gold bull’s-eye on their backs.