Women’s basketball defeats Niagara University 66-65 | The Triangle

Women’s basketball defeats Niagara University 66-65

Photograph courtesy of Greg Carroccio

Entering this week of action, the Drexel University women’s basketball team looked to regain the momentum that it possessed prior to a few tough losses during their Thanksgiving week tournament play. This mission began on Dec. 1, with a showdown against the Leopards of Lafayette College. This one also marked the final game in the Daskalakis Athletic Center for the Dragons until Dec. 21, making the urgency to take care of business on their home floor even more paramount in this one.

However, as has tended to be their custom this season, the Dragons were not red hot from the opening tip. A pair of threes from freshman Hannah Nihill and sophomore Aubree Brown were the only two baskets made by the team for nearly the first six minutes of game action. This slow start opened the door for the Leopards to surge ahead to a lead that ballooned to five by the end of the first quarter. Much of the same continued into the second quarter, but at the 6:22 mark, a  three-pointer from senior Megan Marecic sparked the runs that Dragons fans were hoping for from the outset. Buckets by senior Kelsi Lidge, Nihill, and sophomore Bailey Greenberg helped punctuate the stretch.

But as has often been the case with this group, the defensive effort and intensity was the key to setting up their offensive attack. Over the final six minutes of the half, Drexel did not allow a single point from the visitors, and forced seven turnovers in the process. Nihill led the way with six steals on the evening, a team high for the young season. A timeout early in the run by Lafayette coach Kia Damon did little to stem the tide, as she was forced to see her team’s early lead turn into a nine-point deficit at the break.

With the proverbial lid finally removed from their basket, the Dragons used their offensive execution to put away Lafayette in the second half. The tone was set early in the period by a triple from Marecic and two from Nihill, effectively keeping the Leopards at bay. Hot shooting allowed the surge to continue to the tune of a comfortable double digit advantage for most of the half. When the final horn sounded in this one, Drexel had come away with the 52-37 victory and were ready to hit the road full of confidence.

The first game of the road trip came at Delaware State University on the afternoon of Dec. 3. Despite the momentum obtained by the Dragons in their previous outing, they were still unable to shake their bad habit of slow starts in this one, allowing the Hornets to hang around for much of the first half. Lidge and senior Sara Woods both paced the visiting side with nine points a piece, while Marecic continued her strong play of late with eight before intermission.

Ultimately though, the story of the second half was much more about the cohesiveness of the group on the floor for the Dragons than of any one player. After a surely spirited halftime speech from head coach Denise Dillon, the ball started to move in the second half to the tune of 15 assists on the 17 made shots in the quarter. As is usually the case, the unselfishness opened up the offensive attack and allowed Drexel to shoot over 60 percent from the field. And while they were unable to force their characteristic amount of turnovers leading to points on the other end of the floor, the defense clamped down on Delaware State holding them to just 22 points in the half on 9-29 shooting. This second half dominance culminated in an 18-8 final quarter to cement a 21-point victory.

This collective effort also produced some impressive individual performances when all was said and done. Lidge led the way with 17 points, needing only nine shot attempts to accomplish that feat. An even 10 rebounds gave her the double double, an achievement that teammate Brown came just one assist short of doing herself. Brown’s nine assists, though, marked a career high in her own right. Marecic and Woods joined those in double digits with 13 points each. Nihill’s week on both ends of the floor was also noticed not only by her teammates but by the league as a whole as she was named Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Week. Her defensive performance against Lafayette as well as her blistering three-point shooting (9-11 on the year) have put the other teams in the conference on notice. She will be a vital piece of the Dragon’s gameplan as they look to continue their winning ways on the road.

The Dragons traveled to Niagara Falls, New York Dec. 7 to play the Purple Eagles of Niagara University. With six seconds remaining on the clock, Marecic drained a three-pointer for the 66-65 win.

After trailing by eight points at the half, the Dragons were determined to make a strong comeback. They outscored the Purple Eagles 20-15 and 20-24 in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. Lidge led the way again with a career high 23 points, six rebounds and six steals. Greenberg claimed her own career high 17 points, and shot  6-for-12 from the floor with 10 rebounds. Marecic came in with 11 points and six rebounds, with the winning shot in the final six seconds of the game.

The final minute of the game was the most exciting play for both teams. Two missed three-pointer shots from the Dragons and a foul on Marecic gave Niagara’s Kharysma Bryant two free throw attempts. She made the first with 53 seconds remaining to give the Purple Eagles a five-point lead of 62-57, and then she missed the second shot. Marecic was there to grab the rebound, and drive down to the other end of the court where she hit a three-pointer to put the Dragons back within two.

Denise Dillon took a final timeout to gather her team together before returning for the last 35 seconds of the game. Within a couple seconds of heading back to the court, a foul on Marecic gave Niagara two free throw attempts. Kaylee Stroemple made both shots, and the Purple Eagles thought another five-point lead would seal the deal. But as seen in the past, the game for the Lady Dragons is never over until the final buzzer sound.

The Dragons gained possession with 22 seconds left on the clock, and Lidge hit a three-pointer six seconds later forcing a Niagara timeout. A crucial turnover by Niagara’s Jamie Sherburne game Drexel the ball with 11 seconds to play. A drive down the court by the team set up Marecic for a great position to make the final three-pointer shot of the game with six seconds left.

After this exciting win, the Dragons will travel to Syracuse, New York Dec. 9 looking to hand the Orange a second upset victory.