Final Score: College of Charleston 86, Drexel 84
Drexel Player of the Game: Troy Harper
Key to the Game: Turnovers
Next game: Thursday February 14th, at James Madison
There was a deja vu feeling at the DAC with just seconds left in Saturday’s contest between Drexel and visiting College of Charleston. “This is a competitive game. This is a rivalry. It’s been 2-2 [in the last four contests]and we would have beaten them three out of four times if we had won today.” said Coach Zach Spiker. But before Drexel knew it, it was all over again. And unlike the furious comeback win the Dragons earned in January, this one ended in defeat.*
* Let’s take care of this asterisk off the top. Were the final seconds of this game called correctly, this game likely would have gone into at least overtime, if not been won in regulation by the Dragons. The officiating crew of Brian Zink, Patrick Harwood and Michael Luckie missed an above the shoulders offensive foul on Jarrell Brantley – Brantley’s fifth foul of the game. And with the clock winding down and the Dragons down two, they were forced to foul. When the officials went to the monitor, they saw the offensive foul (why go to the monitor on something they hadn’t called at all in real time? Great question.) and assessed a flagrant to Brantley. However, since the play continued, Drexel was doubly hurt – the foul on the Dragons was assessed, allowing Charleston to shoot and make two free throws, extending the lead to four, and the clock ticked off a couple of valuable seconds. Instead of going to the free throw line with a chance to tie and then inbounding with greater than five seconds to play with a chance to win, Drexel instead went to the line down four, and had to inbound and take a rushed shot just to try to force overtime. It was a brutal missed call, and given that the officials went to the monitor to review the foul, almost stunning. And it determined the outcome of this game.
CAA officiating is something that has been – especially on Saturdays, when other leagues are playing and the officiating pool is thinner – taking a beating from coaches and media alike this season. Saturday’s outcome was a direct result of the leagues unwillingness to obtain officials that the athletes and coaches at this level deserve. This is very much a part time job for Patrck Harwood (16 games worked this season) and Brian Zink (17 games worked, only 14 between DI teams, but inexplicably has worked four Drexel games). Asking for full time officials, at a minimum, should not be too much to ask of the CAA.
For reference, VCU’s officials on Saturday had worked a combined 151 games this year, brought down by veteran official, Tim Kelly, only having worked 33 games this season. Drexel’s officials on Saturday have worked a combined 69 games all year. Great for Gronk, not great for the Dragons.
OK – Enough about that. While there is valid reason for complaint, for thirty eight and a half minutes of this game there was a clear victor, and it was Charleston. Jarrell Brantley seemed to effortlessly get to the rim on his way to 14 first half points, and when the Dragons answered, it was by hitting tough shots against a disciplined Charleston defense that didn’t commit a foul for the first fifteen minutes of the game. The Dragons trailed by 12 at the half after allowing the Cougars to shoot 76% inside the arc. It was a clinic by Charleston, leaving the Dragons on the ropes, but alive, perhaps saved by a zone that Drexel employed at the end of the half to push the Cougars from layup to jumpshot range.
On the offensive end, the tough shots Drexel hit were overshadowed by the 15 turnovers they gave up. Charleston’s 10 point advantage (20 to 10) in points off turnover matched up with the teams point differential for most of the game, leading up to the Dragons furious comeback attempt. So despite scoring 84 points against the best scoring defense in the CAA, Coach Spiker was clear that he wasn’t excited yet. “We had 15 turnovers so we should have scored more. We rate every shot – we’ll go back and look at the quality of our shots.” And while the quality of his shots may be up for some debate, Troy Harper certainly hit them. He had one of his most efficient games of the year – and his career – en route to a career high 30 points on 13 field goal attempts and 11 free throws. Alihan Demir’s 9-9 from inside the arc and James Butler’s 4-4 from next to the bucket helped the efficient effort as all Drexel starters finished with double digits in the scoring column.
When the game reached the second half, the Cougars weren’t able to extend their lead. Coach Spiker attributed that to better transition defense, slowing the entire Charleston offense and specifically Jarrell Brantley. Meanwhile, the Dragons shot a scorching 65% from the field and went 12-12 from the line (part of a perfect game 19-19 performance highlighted by Troy Harper’s 11-11) in the second half to close the lead down to the one possession game that it became with 23 seconds remaining.
As for that final tension filled Drexel play with just over three seconds remaining, run before a standing DAC crowd, Spiker noted that it was a play they run and they like to run. But in regard to the shot taken by Trevor John: “We wanted [the look]to be better. They were ready for it, they were prepared and they made us take a tough one.” And on that asterisk that led off the article, the Dragons Head Coach made it clear: “It’s not what happened in the final minute, it’s what happened in the first thirty-eight and a half.”