Second half surge by DU puts Dillon on top | The Triangle

Second half surge by DU puts Dillon on top

Senior guard Kamile Nacickaite rises up to shoot a layup through a sea of UNCW defenders.

The Drexel women’s basketball team is in its final stretch of the season with the postseason waiting around the corner. In what thus far has been an inconsistent season, the Dragons entered last week with only six games remaining.

They got off to a good start in the final stretch, defeating The College of William & Mary 78-59 on the road Feb. 12. The win bumped their record over .500 once again and improved their record in the Colonial Athletic Association to 8-5.

The leading contributor in points to the Dragons’ single-game season-high was Kamile Nacickaite with 24. The senior, along with fellow senior Tyler Hale, helped Drexel shoot over 50 percent from the floor. Forward Taylor Wootton chipped in with four threes as well.

Utilizing a strong, deep rotation, the Dragons received scoring contributions from 10 different players, and that was with senior guard Marisa Crane out of action with a knee injury. Head coach Denise Dillon attributed part of the success to the rotation — to her it’s only part of the good game.

“We played a really good game offensively and defensively,” Dillon said. “We talked about it at halftime; we were focused on putting two good halves of basketball together.”

Drexel held the Tribe’s leading scorer, Janine Aldridge, to only three points all game, something that pleased Dillon.

And with the win, Dillon moved into a tie for most all-time wins in Drexel women’s basketball program history.

“I’m excited, honored and happy for the program,” Dillon said about the achievement. “It’s great to be recognized, and it’s great for the coaching staff. The staff has been together for years.”

Dillon continued to make and break records as the Dragons pulled out a huge second-half win against Old Dominion University Feb. 16 in Norfolk, Va.

This win brings the Dragons’ CAA record to 9-5.

Drexel got off to a rough start and couldn’t manage to catch up to ODU throughout the whole first half. The only players to score during the first were Mershon, Flanagan, Hale and Ayana Lee — giving Drexel a total of 13 points for the half.

Entering the second, the Dragons were down by 14 points but came out of the locker room recharged and ready to compete. In an effort catalyzed by Hale, they scored the first 13 out of 15 points, bringing the score to 26-29 in no time.

After a timeout, ODU responded to Drexel’s pressure with a three-pointer, which was immediately followed by a three-pointer by Nacickaite. And with that, the momentum continued to swing in Drexel’s direction.

With just under 10 minutes left, the Dragons got within two points of the Monarchs at 37-39. It seemed as though that was the confidence boost that the Dragons needed to take it to the next level — and with a three-pointer from Mershon, Drexel took the lead for the first time in the game at 40-39 with just 5:39 left in play.

Minutes later, after a fast break from Mershon, the Dragons gained their largest lead of the game at 47-43.

The Dragons would hold the lead for the rest of the contest, defeating ODU 53-45. This brings Dillon’s career record to 145-122, which surpasses Lil Haas, giving her the title of Drexel women’s basketball’s all-time winningest coach.

Moving forward toward the CAA playoffs, the Dragons are set to face the University of Delaware Feb. 19. The Blue Hens will enter the game as the No. 10 team in the nation, boasting a record of 22-1. They are unbeaten in 13 conference games. In their matchup a month ago, Drexel fell victim to one of Delaware’s many wins with a 60-49 loss in Newark, Del. Jan 22.

It will be one of three remaining games for the home schedule, and the final home games in the careers of the four seniors. The next one will come again a few days after the Delaware matchup Feb. 23 against the same William & Mary team.

“It’ll be important to come to the DAC to see our seniors,” Dillon said. “We would love to have students a part of [the final few home games].”

Drexel has struggled at the DAC this season, only able to pull out four wins in their 10 home games. By comparison, they went 12-2 on their home court last season. It is something that has frustrated the team, but also something on which they will look to improve.

The women’s team is hoping for the same success, as well as the buzz and excitement that is currently around their colleagues on the men’s team, which is undefeated at the DAC. It certainly has caught the attention of Dillon and her team.

“We’re excited to see the success and want to be a part of it,” Dillon explained. “[The women on the team] recognize what the men are doing and want to go and do it themselves.”