Dragons Top Bobcats at Mohegan Sun

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Final Score: Drexel 92, Quinnipiac 83
Drexel Player of the Game: Alihan Demir
Key to the Game: Start better and finish strong

Drexel entered the Sunday evening contest with a record of 5-5.  At the opposition bench waited Quinnipiac, a team that Spiker’s Dragons have had considerable success against, winning each of the two contests prior to this one with Spiker as the team’s head coach, and four in a row overall.

The first twelve minutes of Drexel’s game can be best described as listless.  The starting five had a different look with Alihan Demir starting the game on the bench, reportedly due to a disciplinary issue.  Quinnipiac made the first twelve minutes of the game look easy.  Their passing was crisp, they were finding the open man, and their shots were mostly either wide open looks or uncontested threes.  Quinnipiac did their defensive homework too.  Trevor John found himself smothered for much of the game and finished the half with just two three pointers coming in back to back possessions with six minutes remaining.

Once he was released from detention, Alihan Demir proved to be a difference maker.  The junior tri-captain put up 11 points in 11 minutes in the first half, going 5 for 6 from the field.  His replacement midway through the half, Jarvis Doles, contributed a pair of threes of his own which rightfully bought him a few extra minutes on the floor.  Doles, a sophomore, has not gotten many minutes this year.  He does continue to show the three point touch that he had last season.  His two attempts from three, both makes, looked like sure things as soon as they left his hands.  His wingspan can also prove to be challenging to defend from the perimeter as well.

The referees were not on Drexel’s side though.  The Dragons have been very good at getting to the line this year with Troy Harper once again finding himself near the top of the national leader board in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, but the zebras would not see fit to work in his favor.  Harper found himself on the floor several times to start the half, but despite his attempts, he did not make it to the free throw line a single time through the first 20 minutes.

Thankfully, the Dragons woke up after the under-8 media timeout.  Through the last eight minutes of the half Drexel outscored Quinnipiac 26-16, allowing them to head to the locker room trailing 45-41.  “We felt very fortunate to go into that locker room at halftime down four,” Spiker said, “I think we deserved to be down maybe 15 points or 20.”

As the second half progressed, it was apparent that Troy Harper was not going to get any help from the officials.  Predictably, his first half numbers were not that desirable.  Harper was 3 for 9, as he finished the half with six points and not a single attempted free throw.  It would have been easy for the senior to continue to go to the hole and look to put a body on a defender in hopes that a whistle would follow, but Sunday, Harper changed up.  His drives became more aggressive and assertive, and according to his coach, he did it all while feeling under the weather.  Harp finished the game with an impressive 19 points, registering just two turnovers, both of which came in the first ten minutes of the contest.

Defensively, Harper found himself at the center of what might have been the most pivotal play in the late stages of the game.  Quinnipiac’s leading scorer Cameron Young found himself with four fouls early in the second half, relegating him to the bench.  Once he returned to the floor, Troy Harper found himself assigned to Young, giving up five inches to the Bobcats’ senior.  Young had Harper backed into the lane with 1:45 remaining.  He leaned just hard enough into the smaller Harper, who went to the floor, attempting to draw the charge.  The referees, who had passed on the Drexel senior guard’s attempts to draw a whistle on more than a couple occasions, saw fit to give him this one, sending Young to the showers with a charging call that would be his fifth foul.

And then there was Cam Wynter.  The freshman point guard was once again excellent.  Like Harper, Wynter turned the ball over twice in the first ten minutes of the game.  He did not cough the ball up again until there was just 1:13 remaining.  He finished the game with 18 points of his own, adding 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals to his stat line.  Wynter was once again called upon to play a team high 38 minutes in Sunday’s contest, and he appeared to relish in every moment of it.

At the end of the night, the Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase staff saw fit to give Alihan Demir the player of the game, and who are we to disagree?  The junior forward scored a career high 26 points in 28 minutes on 11 of 15 shooting from the floor.  Once again, Demir found himself on the blocks against a team that just did not have an answer for his game.  Make no mistake about it though, this game was won by a team effort.  Drexel shot 67.7% from the floor in the second half, despite not potting a single three pointer.  They made up for the lack of perimeter shooting by being absolutely dominant in the paint.  Drexel scored 32 of their 51 second half points in the paint.  Their ball retention was excellent as well.  They turned the ball over just four times in the second half and recorded a season low 13.7% turnover rate.  Their 9 steals were also a season high against a Division 1 opponent.

They did, however, surrender 83 points to a team that offensively has had trouble getting going this season, and that is concerning.  A win tonight was undoubtedly a positive, but with just two games against tough opponents standing between the Dragons and conference play, the time is now to look forward, and their coach knows it.  “It was good enough tonight, I don’t know if its good enough to win a league game on the road, but we’ve got to learn from it, and we’ve got to have better starts.”

Drexel returns to the hardwood in Hartford on Tuesday to take on Dan Hurley’s UCONN Huskies.

Injury Notes:

Junior guard Kurk Lee was once again sidelined for Sunday’s game.  He did, however travel with the team.  There is no indication as to whether or not he will play on Tuesday against UCONN.  Sunday was the 7th straight game that Lee, who is just 85 points shy of 1,000 for his Drexel career, has missed this season.

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