Final Score: Delaware 72, Drexel 66
Key to the Game: 40 minutes of effort
Drexel Player of the Game: Sammy Mojica
Next Game: Saturday, January 13 4pm vs. Hofstra
The Drexel Dragons headed south to face Delaware at the Bob Carpenter Center on the heels of a listless performance against William & Mary. The undermanned Blue Hens sent a roster consisting of just seven scholarship players to the court to take on a nearly healthy Drexel team.
Drexel came out of the locker room in the first half intent on pushing up the tempo of the game. It is no secret that the Blue Hens are playing short with two season ending injuries and a third player who was dismissed from the program. Drexel struggled to convert their chances for much of the first half, shooting 11-30 overall. Ten of those attempts were threes, however just one was a make, leaving Drexel to shoot 50% for the half from the inside.
On the other end of the floor, Drexel threw three different defenders on last year’s CAA Rookie of the Year, Ryan Daly, an assignment that was mostly held by Sammy Mojica. The defensive pressure applied by The Dragons was enough to hold Daly to just one basket to show for from his first eight attempts. The problem was, Drexel struggled to defend the other Blue Hens on the floor with Ryan Allen, Eric Carter and Skye Johnson combining for 20 of Delaware’s 31 points.
Despite a poor offensive showing of just .818 points per possession, Drexel was able to keep the game close. They closed the first half trailing by four, 31-27.
For the first 13 minutes of the second half, Drexel seemed to regress. Delaware’s lead peeked at 16 with 7:07 to go. Then, the pendulum started to swing. In less than a minute, Drexel made two layups, and Kurk Lee made a steal and sunk a three pointer, cutting the Delaware lead to 9. The Dragons looked to have woken up from a slumber that lasted nearly 50 full minutes of court time. In those last seven minutes, Drexel outscored Delaware 16-9 with Delaware’s last three points being free throws. The Dragons played with the same fight that they did for the first ten minutes of Sunday’s contest. Unfortunately, it was not enough. Drexel fell to Delaware 72-66.
“If we play with energy and effort I like our group and I like our chances every single night we tip the ball off in this league,” a passionate, fired up Zach Spiker said in his postgame interview, later adding, “If we can play 40 minutes like we played the last seven and a half; let’s go. But if we don’t then we can lose to anybody.”
Drexel’s downfall Thursday night was shot selection. The perimeter game was not working for the Dragons. They were 5 for 25 from three as a team with Sammy Mojica leading the way shooting 3 for 9. Kurk Lee, who otherwise showed a lot of heart and effort on the floor, was just 1 for 7 from downtown. Tramaine Isabell and Troy Harper were a combined 0-5. The outside game was not working, but Drexel kept shooting. Drexel, the deeper team, also did not get enough from the three players who subbed into the game. The depleted Delaware bench outscored Drexel’s subs 17-8. To add insult to injury, Delaware outrebounded Drexel 42-37.
What went well for the Dragons in their first matchup of the year against the Blue Hens? Drexel turned the ball over just eight times, their lowest of the season. Tramaine Isabell recorded his third double-double of his career, scoring 14 and adding 15 rebounds. All three, incidentally, have come in a Drexel uniform. Kurk Lee recorded a season-high four steals. Three of them came over a two-minute period in the second half. Alihan Demir scored in double figures for the fifth straight game and he got to do it in front of his family who was in town to watch the game.
Despite Isabell’s double-double, Thursday’s Always a Dragon Player of the Game nod goes to Sammy Mojica. Although he got some help from Isabell and Harper, Mojica was once again asked to cover their opponent’s best player. Because of Mojica’s efforts on the defensive end, Ryan Daly was held to just two points on 1 of 7 shooting in the first half. He finished the game with 13 points on 4 of 16 shooting. Six of Mojica’s 13 points came on a pair of second half threes. Mojica played a team high 37 minutes and he never took his foot off the gas.
Ultimately though, the Dragons came up short. Drexel’s road record fell to 0-12 against Colonial Athletic Association opponents, and 5-21 overall over the last two seasons. Their coach felt this one was a game this team should have been victorious in. “This needs to bother us. I’m not happy about it. This is two years in a row that we’ve given this team a game in this building.”
Spiker also had a pointed message for his team, and that was to play for its senior starters. “Austin Williams deserves a great senior year sendoff. Sammy Mojica deserves a great senior year sendoff. Those guys deserve it.”
The Dragons return to the court at 4pm on Saturday to take on Hofstra. If you are interested in coming to the game and you do not have tickets, use the coupon code “BLUEANDGOLD” to save 10% on your seat. Drexel also plans to wear their blue uniforms on Saturday and they are asking the fans to wear blue as well.