With the winter term on Drexel University’s campus well underway, so too is conference play for the women’s basketball team. While the early half of the year is reserved for developing chemistry and creating winning habits, the Colonial Athletic Association league play is the time where the stage will be set for the March Madness that will ensue in the coming weeks.
And thus far, the women’s team has experienced some great success. Early season play left them with a record of 11-5 and firmly entrenched in the race for the top spot in the CAA. After the thrilling overtime victory against the College of William & Mary, the women boasted a 3-1 conference record and 11-4 record overall. They also saw head coach Denise Dillon recognized as the program’s all-time victories leader, adding a tangible element to a year that so far has continually felt special.
This was the context in which the team found themselves at the time of their matchup against the visiting University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks Jan. 14. With a stretch of five days off, a fourth straight victory would send resounding messages to the entirety of the league that the early season triumphs were a sign of things to come rather than non-league flukes.
The 0-5 Seahawks came in hungry for a win themselves, but from the outset it seemed clear that Jan. 14 would not be the day of their first CAA win. After an initial three-pointer from UNCW sophomore guard Timber Tate gave her team a 3-2 lead, Drexel’s trademark defense tightened up, not allowing a bucket for a three-minute stretch. Their offense followed suit, led by Kelsi Lidge and Sara Woods. The senior duo carried the load early, and for Lidge it was an indicator that an especially strong night was in the works.
In the second period, a pair of free throws by sophomore Bailey Greenberg pushed the Drexel lead to double-digits, but throughout this quarter it would once again be the defense that would function as the dominant storyline. In fact, UNCW would be held without a single point in the second until the 5:46 mark. The Dragons forced three turnovers during this stretch, a number that would grow to 25 by game’s end. Drexel was able to capitalize on these to the tune of 16 points off of these giveaways.
By the time the halftime horn sounded, Drexel had doubled up their visitors 34-17 and things did not change after halftime. A third quarter layup by Lidge stretched the advantage to more than 20 points, and the second half turned quite simply into the home team running away and hiding with a lead that was never seriously challenged. The senior forward from Aurora, Colorado didn’t lose focus throughout this route though, as she scored nine of her 18 total points in the second half. This was also a milestone day for Lidge, as she managed to score her 500th total career point in the game, a distinction punctuating her position as Drexel’s leading active scorer. Joining her in double figures were Woods with 12 and Greenberg with 11, a total that she gained in only 21 minutes of action.
Up next, the Dragons have two games in three days at Northeastern University and Hofstra University, who both find themselves hovering around .500 at this point in the season. These will be better tests for Drexel than last place UNCW, important measuring sticks for a team that hopes to be strong contenders in the early March conference tournament held at a familiar setting, Daskalakis Athletic Center, for its 2018 iteration.