News broke shortly before Drexel’s faceoff against the Delaware Blue Hens on Saturday that Troy Harper had been injured in practice this week, and would miss the remainder of the year. The Dragons, suddenly down this seasons leading scorer, after having already lost their top two projected scorers for the year in Kurk Lee and Zach Walton, brought to mind imagines of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Down four limbs, if you include the transfer of Tramaine Isabell, but still needing to show up to the fight.
As it turns out, Delaware may have thought that Drexel was down four limbs too. What the Blue Hens learned was that when they show up to the DAC, they’re going to be forced to earn the game, no matter how many starters may be out for Drexel. And as painful as last years “Comeback Game” may have been for UD, the looks on their faces after this one made one question if this one wasn’t just as painful, but in an entirely different way.
“I think [Drexel] played harder today” said Senior big man Eric Carter. His Coach, Martin Inglesby, without hearing that, walked in the room minutes later and said “They played harder than we did.”
It was the sound of a team who knew that they had just been beaten, from tip to buzzer. And they had been. After trading baskets for the first twelve minutes of the contest, a Trevor John triple pushed the Dragons lead to five points and the Dragons led by at least that margin the rest of the way, in a game that never really seemed to feel in doubt to the crowd of 1,744 that came out for the rivalry showdown.
“I don’t think we got every 50/50 ball… I think we got more than we [had been getting]” said Coach Spiker, about his teams hustle and effort. Still, one couldn’t help notice the foot stomping and fist pumps from the coach on the sideline. “When our players do something that we talk about as a staff, that we put emphasis on, we’re fired up. Today it was 50/50 balls.”
That effort and hustle seemed personified in Matey Juric who got the start in place of Troy Harper. Despite only scoring 4 points and having 5 rebounds in the box score, his effect was felt throughout the contest. His teammate Cam Wynter spoke fondly, saying: “I think he did a great job [defensively]tonight on [Ryan Allen]… Having him there creates more movement in the offense, so I really liked having him next to me tonight.”
It can’t be said enough what having a freshman able to come off the bench and guard Delaware’s biggest perimeter weapon meant for the team. That the offense became less isolation based and more motion based wasn’t missed on fans either. Don’t be fooled by the low final score of 68-60. Despite missing their leading scorer, the Dragons scored 1.164 points per possession in this game. That output was their second most efficient game of the conference season.
And about Cam Wynter: The freshman point guard played all 40 minutes, and filled up the box score while doing it. With 19 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, it was clear that he knew more would be asked of him, and he was ready to answer. “I know I had to create for my team, especially without Troy Harper… I still think I’m a pass first point guard, but my ability to create for others opens up my ability to get to the rim and create shots.” said Cam postgame.
Coach Spiker made his feelings on the freshman very clear: “I can’t see another player being more valuable to their program and the success they are having… If you look at what is asked and required of him for us to be successful, he’s got my vote [for CAA Rookie of the Year]. Am I biased? Yeah. But I think there’s a lot of people who aren’t biased and he has their vote too.”
Despite being down three starters, the Dragons still went eight deep with their rotation in the victory, getting more than ten minutes a piece from Jarvis Doles, Coletrane Washington and Tim Perry Jr. The trio combined for 10 points and 6 rebounds in 33 minutes. Alihan Demir, who took a blow to the head but came back after treatment at halftime, finished with 13 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds. James Butler and Trevor John each scored in double figures with 12 and 10 respectively.
Drexel resumes their homestand at the DAC on Thursday against CAA leading Hofstra. That game tips at 7pm and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Philly+.