Some may take exception to using the word “pound” to describe a five point win.
Those people are wrong.
The word “pound” is not only appropriate, it can be used in two contexts. The first, speaking towards a physical pounding, a bludgeoning of sorts. The Dragons put up 89 points in regulation on the road at Tom Gola arena. A full 44 of those were scored in the paint. Aiding and abetting those 44 points, were 34 points on made free throws. The Dragons coaches rolled out one on one matchups that they felt they could win all night long, and La Salle never answered defensively. It was a physical beating.
The other area of pounding La Salle took was in the box score. While a five point victory doesn’t seem like much, it took a strong shooting day from La Salle (46% from three) and a poor shooting day from Drexel (21%) to keep the scoreboard looking close. That was about the best possible shooting outcome for Ashley Howard’s squad, and they were still down double digits with three minutes to play. The reality is, given the poor interior defense, La Salle never had a chance to win this contest.
Why La Salle never had that chance is an interesting discussion. Certainly the speed of Troy Harper (24 points, 5/10 from the field, 14/16 from the line), and Cam Wynter (15 points, 6 rebounds) gave them fits. Against the Dragons offense that spreads the floor, it can be hard for the help defenders to get there in time, and La Salle seemed to have that issue on Saturday afternoon. Why the decision not to throw some zone defense in to try to stop the onslaught? That’s a tough question to answer… perhaps if you are not familiar with how Ashley Howard was coached as a collegiate athlete. Indeed, it may have struck some Drexel fans as a familiar scene, but from a different vantage point.
So it was a learning experience for first year Head Coach Ashley Howard. As Drexel’s Zach Spiker said postgame “Ash is a Drexel grad, 364 days a year we are pulling for him.” On this 365th day, the lack of answers was somewhat stunning. Alihan Demir had 7 first half points but it seemed like the Explorers had him under control, despite his having size on most of the home team players. And then, in Alihan’s words, “they doubled me, but then they stopped doubling me in the second half, and I got a feel for the game, and it was easier.” Which, it turns out, is a really modest way of saying what he could have said: “they stopped doubling me, so I figured I’d starting my own personal layup line against them, scoring 12 straight points in just 4 minutes and 17 seconds, extending the lead to 10 with just 1:28 to go.” Only two of those baskets even required an assist, mostly it was just Alihan being Alihan. The skilled junior finished with an impressively efficient line of 21 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 0 turnovers.
The other big takeaway from this one was this: This game on Olney Avenue was seemingly the first game of the season (Division I edition) where the Dragons were working with an opponent they could be highly expected to contend with. And as such, it was an important test, and one that they passed with flying colors.
Coming off of a game in which they were beaten up and seemingly stuck on the perimeter at Rutgers, this was an important show of force and flexibility. Yes, the Dragons can go with a smaller, shooter based lineup with Lee, Wynter, John and Walton out there, but they can also get physical with Wynter, Harper, Walton and Demir on the outside. It’s a flexibility that Zach Spiker hasn’t had yet, and that Bruiser Flint perhaps never had. Watching Spiker play that hand and let his players win one on one battles, instead of working through the high ball movement perimeter offense that the team showed earlier was shocking to the eye. When asked about it, Coach Spiker stated “we want to [dribble penetrate]every possession, but we haven’t been great at it so far. Eastern Michigan was a zone game… Rutgers, that game got away a little bit. I don’t know if we have had enough sampling for [our fans]to see what we truly want to be about. We want to pound the post every possession, and get two or three paint touches, whether it’s a post feed or dribble penetration, it makes us better.”
In this game, they were very much “better”.
Drexel returns to the court Wednesday to face the Boston University Terriers, who should stick to hockey, at the DAC at 3pm. It will significantly impact the outcome of this writers Thanksgiving (I’ll love you either way, sister).