Final Score: Northeastern 93, Drexel 83
Key to the Game: Support Scoring!
Drexel Player of the Game: Troy Harper
Playing in front of a crowd size that rivaled Drexel’s victory against Quinnipiac at Mohegan Sun, the Dragons headed to Boston to take on the Huskies of Northeastern University. The starting lineup was no surprise for the Dragons. Cam Wynter, like he has for the previous 10 games, started the night at the point. Kurk Lee was once again dressed and on the sidelines.
There were some simple things that Drexel had to do on Friday if they wanted to compete with the Huskies. They needed to at least compete on the boards. They did. They matched the Huskies with 32 rebounds. They had to control the ball. They did. Their 14% turnover rate was their second lowest of the season. What they could not do, however, was run with Northeastern’s offense, or at least control it. With the Dragons leading 19-14 in the first half, Northeastern saw fit to take the game over. The Huskies went on a 10-0 run capped with Jeremy Miller’s only basket of the night. Although Drexel kept the difference to five at the conclusion of the first half, this run was a decisive turning point for the Dragons.
While as a team Drexel did a good job limiting their turnovers to just ten, which translated to a 14% turnover rate, their second best this season, junior Alihan Demir committed six of them. Demir has had a strong season so far this year recording four double-doubles and scoring 20 or more points in three separate games but turnovers have been problems for Drexel’s starting #4. Spiker has always touted Demir’s passing and ball handling abilities. The former has been good this year with the 6’8 junior averaging 3 assists per game, but the latter has been a big contributing factor to his 2.85 turnovers per game.
When it comes down to it, now that they are into conference play, it is games like this where Drexel is really going to feel the absence of Zach Walton. Although he might not be a “big man” by definition, Walton added strength and grit to the interior when needed. Northeastern’s Anthony Green came into Friday’s game averaging 8.5 points and 4.4 rebounds on the season. His 21 points were a career high, improving on his previous best of 16, and his 11 boards was the second best performance of the senior’s career. When guys like James Butler and Tim Perry Jr struggle on the interior, Walton is the kind of player that they need to help out. And struggle the #5’s did. Green played 26 minutes and was able to go 9 for 10 from the floor.
And then there is the concerning continued absence of Kurk Lee. Friday was the third straight game that Lee, a tri-captain, has been dressed but did not play. Although he has played a boat load impressive minutes, Cam Wynter could certainly do with a little less pressure at the point. The team has been tight lipped on Lee’s status and the probability of his return, but the backcourt could use him, without a doubt.
When it came down to it though the Northeastern offense was just too much for the Dragons. They started cold but when the baskets started falling, it was open season against the Dragons. Unsurprisingly, Vasa Pusica led the way with 29 points with transfer Jordan Roland adding 21 of his own. It should be noted that Roland did not score his first bucket until there was 5:16 remaining in the first half.
And really, the play of Green and Roland ended up being the difference for Northeastern. Pusica’s 29 points was effectively canceled out by Troy Harper’s performance, but Northeastern had something that Drexel did not on Saturday: support scoring. Drexel kept Northeastern’s lead under 10 for almost the entire second half, but everything that Drexel threw at the Huskies they seemed to have an answer for. Drexel ultimately fell to Northeastern by a score of 93-83.
The Drexel Player of the Game unsurprisingly goes to senior guard Troy Harper. Harper has shown his value for this team as an aggressive driving guard prone to drawing contact. While he has shown the ability to change up when the calls were not going his way that was not a problem for Harper on Friday. Harper shot 10 for 11 from the line, and committed just a single turnover as he recorded a career best 28 points in 37 minutes on the court. The highlight of the night for Harper was a thunderous dunk on Northeastern’s 6’10” big man Jeremy Miller on the baseline at the end of the first half.
If there is a silver lining for the Dragons and this contest, they got a road game against one of the best teams in the conference out of the way right off the bat. The bad news is they were just outplayed. The crowd did not factor into the game, because there was not one. The band did not factor into the game because there was not one. This was just a basketball game. Nothing more, nothing less, and Northeastern proved that they were the better team on the court.
Drexel returns to the court on Sunday against the Hofstra Pride, as the Always a Dragon team welcomes Jerry Beach back to cover the game for Drexel. As always, thanks for reading!