The contest started out neck-in-neck. By the 10-minute mark the score was separated by two baskets, with Hofstra (15-5, 7-2 Colonial Athletic Association) in the lead 19-15. Although Drexel was trailing, they quickly resurrected the score, all stemming from a single play.
Marisa Crane dodged Hofstra’s defense and got the ball to Kamile Nacickaite, who instantly sunk a three-pointer. In the process, Nacickaite was fouled by a Pride player, and as a result added another point for her team, bringing the score to a 19-19 tie.
From that point on, the Dragons went on an impressive 14-0 run that lasted nearly five minutes of play. Drexel (10-10, 6-4 CAA) would continue to hold its lead for the duration of the half. Both teams headed to the locker rooms with the Dragons ahead 37-29.
Though this lead appeared to be an indication of a winning second half for Drexel, the momentum changed when Hofstra came out of the locker room, going on a 17-4 run.
“I keep saying, ‘Make something happen instead of expecting it to happen,’” head coach Denise Dillon said. “We have to go out there with a mentality that I am going to make a stop; I am going to make a play on the offensive end. I think we just take it for granted that it happened in the first half, and hey, let’s see what happens in the second.”
Even with the scoring jolt from the Pride, Drexel managed to inch its way back into the game and tie the score at 41 apiece. That tie would soon fall through as Hofstra scored five points in a row and gained a lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the contest.
Regardless of the final outcome, Drexel never gave up. With less than five minutes left on the clock, Taylor Wootton sank one free throw, bringing the Dragons within a point of the Pride at 56-57. After Wootton’s point, the opportunity came for Drexel to regain the lead, but turnovers and missed chances translated into more success for Hofstra.
Hofstra would conclude the game by handing Drexel a devastating CAA loss with a final score of 68-61.
Though the blue and gold came away with a loss, they also took away some solid shooting figures. Nacickaite ended with 22 points, with Hollie Mershon not far behind at 15 and Tyler Hale with 12.
And the successful shooting carried into Drexel’s game against George Mason, where the Dragons started off strong but fell to the Patriots in another tough loss.
“Against Hofstra I thought we continued to battle, and that’s the frustrating thing,” Dillon said. “Identify yourself as a team that is not going to quit; I think we kind of quit [against GMU].”
The game started off a little slow, but after two minutes of a scoreless game, the Dragons woke up and began doing work. Nacickaite got the scoring started for her team by sinking a basket, and Wootton followed right behind her, bringing the score to 4-0 Dragons.
Moments later Mershon was fouled and went 2-for-2 at the line. With Drexel holding a 6-0 lead, it appeared as though the Patriots (11-10, 5-5 CAA) weren’t making any leeway until Rahneeka Saunders put them on the board with just over 15 minutes left in the half.
Saunders lit a fire under her team because in the blink of an eye, the score was tied at six apiece. But as fast as the Patriots lit a fire, the Dragons blew it out with consistent scoring and stellar defense.
After the first few minutes of play, the Dragons really started to get their defense, which has been working so well for them all season, back in action and working in their favor.
With the clock at just over six minutes and the score at 24-13 in Drexel’s favor after a three-pointer by Mershon, George Mason had a lot of catching up to do if they wanted to get themselves back in the game and have a chance to pull out a win. And though they tried, the half closed in Drexel’s favor at 31-23.
“In the first half, things went well but I still felt defensively we had some questions, just not turning it up a notch,” Dillon said. “Then the second half we come out and [Taleia] Moton took over, and we shot extremely bad from the field.”
The second half started off with missed shots by both teams, and it wasn’t until the Patriots’ Janaa Pickard hit a three-pointer that the scoring got started. Just minutes later, GMU managed to tighten the score to get within just one point of the Dragons at 38-39.
Little did Drexel know this was just the beginning of GMU’s surge. Five minutes later, the Patriots took the lead for the first time in the contest.
Within moments GMU began to run away with the game. Thus far in the half, the Dragons had only scored 10 points while the Patriots had more than doubled their score with 22 points.
You can stay in the game with good defense, but you can’t win without offense, and the Dragons learned that the hard way this evening.
“We have talked so much about the importance of every game at this point,” Dillon stated. “It is playoff atmosphere, and you have to figure out how to maintain your position or advance, and these are the games you have to take care of. [Tonight] we certainly didn’t come out with playoff mentality.”
As the game neared an end, Drexel’s super fan Calvin Hicks got up to leave the arena. Members of the peanut gallery asked him why he was leaving, and he responded, “Because they are not winning,” and at the end of the day, isn’t that what really counts? No matter how much pride we have for our team, and no matter how much we believe in them, if they don’t come away with a win, then what’s the point of being a fan?
I will tell you the point: When all is said and done, the DAC Pack is still booing the opponent at the line and is still cheering for the Dragons until they are blue in the face. The real moral of the story is to stick with your team through good and bad and hope like hell they pull off a win.
For this competition it didn’t happen for the Dragons, and after a series of missed shots, poor defense and half-hearted plays, Drexel fell to the Patriots 51-56.
The Dragons’ next competitors? The Northeastern University Huskies.
“The tough thing is we beat Northeastern convincingly at home, and it’s tough to play at their place while they are playing some good basketball,” Dillon said. “So you just hope as a coach that we didn’t hit our stride in January and now we are hitting our slide in February.”
The Dragons take on the Huskies Feb. 5 in Boston. Now let’s see them get a win.