“I was a little nervous – I always get nervous” said CAA Rookie of the Year Hannah Naihill after the Dragons 71-41 lopsided victory over the UNCW Seahawks. If the Drexel Dragons were suffering nerves, then the Athletics Department should make sure the rest of their teams get them too.
From the opening bell it was all Dragons, starting with a 14-0 run to open the game. UNCW’s first field goal didn’t come until nine minutes and eleven seconds into the contest, bringing Drexel’s lead back to 14, 18-4. The first quarter was the first of two quarters in which the Drexel defense held their opponents to single digits. The Dragons had twelve steals in just those two quarters, which led to 25 Seahawk turnovers in the contest. The defense in the third quarter was so good that the Dragons were able to attempt ten more shots than their opponents contributing significantly to winning the quarter 16-7. That extended their lead in the game to 20. All that happened while being outshot 43% to 35% in the quarter.
To not shoot lights out and still win by thirty is beyond impressive. And while the 25 turnovers by the Seahawks helped, the unheralded story of the game was the Dragons rebounding advantage. The Dragons held UNCW to just two second chance points in the contest, despite Wilmington having a considerable size advantage in the paint. 6’1″ senior center Rebekah Banks was held to four rebounds in 26 minutes. 6’2″ Paige Powell made her presence known with 10 points, but was able to get her hands on only a pair of rebounds in 24 minutes of action. “I’m really proud and pleased of the defensive efforts that set the tone from the beginning. That’s been our edge all season.” said Head Coach Denise Dillon.
Going the other way, Kelsi Lidge opened the offense with three triples in the first quarter, singlehandedly outscoring the Seahawks in the stanza. She finished with 18 points and was joined in double figures by teammates Sara Woods and Hannah Nihill who had eleven points each. That duo combined for nine of the teams steals as well, as their defense helped to create offense.
Starters Lidge, Woods, Nihill, Greenburg and Brown played 121 minutes (of a possible 150) in the first three quarters as Coach DIllon played a tight postseason rotation for most of the afternoon. Come the fourth quarter she shifted those responsibilities and diversified that rotation. The Dragons not only scored 24 points in the final quarter to close out the runaway, but with the increased rotation no Dragon player had to play more than 30 minutes in the game. That will leave them as fresh as possible for tomorrow’s contest.
The top seeded Dragons will return to the DAC floor for the first CAA Championship semi-final game at 3pm on Friday against the winner of Northeastern and Delaware. The Dragons went 4-0 against those teams this season.